Should I check on these two neighbors?
January 2, 2019 8:28 AM   Subscribe

My area is experiencing worse winter weather than usual (relatively speaking). I am wondering whether I should check on two neighbors who are acquaintances. One is disabled, and the other is elderly.

I live on the east side of Albuquerque, New Mexico. We usually get snow one to three times a year, but it typically melts and disappears within 24 hours.

Lately, we are having more, closer together. It is sticking around, and temperatures are expected to stay below freezing for at least the next few days. Many organizations are either on a two-hour delay or closed for the day.

I live in an apartment complex with about 16 buildings and 16 units per building. Maintenance men have been shoveling our walks this morning. But enough snow is left on the walks that I expect it to freeze and be more dangerous.

Neighbor A moved in the day after Christmas. Our front doors face each other. We have spoken just a couple of time but been very friendly. I estimate she is in her 70s.

Neighbor B lives one or two buildings away. He walks with cane and has a dog. The dog likes me a lot. We make small talk, and I pet the dog, when we see each other when he is out walking the dog. I don’t think Neighbor B knows that I know which apartment is his.

I am concerned that walking around outside in the next few days could be risky for these neighbors. And the dog needs to be walked. But I don’t want to be intrusive.

Should I check on either of them, or mind my own business?
posted by maurreen to Human Relations (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It seems like the worst consequence of checking in on them would be that you might mildly inconvenience or annoy them, so I would go for it if it's something you feel comfortable doing.
posted by ITheCosmos at 8:34 AM on January 2, 2019 [26 favorites]

I would absolutely check on them. I mean, probably I wouldn't, because I'm not a very nice person when it comes down to the brass tacks of actually doing things and this sort of thing causes me social anxiety, but I would like to think I would.

If you need an excuse, take some cookies and say to Neighbour A, "Hey, I brought you some welcome to the building cookies!" and to Neighbour B, "Hey, I haven't seen you around as much because all the snow and cold have been keeping me inside but I brought you some cookies." Then you can talk about the weird weather and ask them if they need any help as part of a friendly conversation rather than as part of something that looks like a safety check.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:36 AM on January 2, 2019 [21 favorites]

I'd check. "Hey, this weather is bad, and I just wondered if you were OK." You're showing that someone cares about them, and how upset can they really get about that? Go forth and create some positive energy in the world.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:37 AM on January 2, 2019 [35 favorites]

Take them some cookies (or something else that you can plausibly say, "Oh, gee, I made/bought too many!") and then casually mention, "Geez, it's getting really treacherous out there. Can I do anything to help, like... I don't know... walk the dog once or twice for you once or twice a day?"
posted by Etrigan at 8:38 AM on January 2, 2019 [7 favorites]

If you're concerned about offending them with an assumption that they need help, I'd start with a very specific offer. Like "hey, I'm heading out to the grocery store right now, can I pick anything up for you (/take your dog along for some exercise)? The sidewalks are pretty icy!" From their reactions you can gauge better if a more general offer of assistance would be appropriate. It's easy for them to say either "no, I think I've got enough food to last until the sidewalks are clear (/no, dog just went out)" or "no, we're doing fine with the sidewalks."
posted by cogitron at 8:38 AM on January 2, 2019 [32 favorites]

Absolutely check in -- that's a very kind thought! Be friendly, offer to help, and don't be insistent. "Hi Neighbor! This weather's been something else, huh? Just wanted to check in and see if you needed anything! Happy New Year!"

If you're worried about the slippery sidewalks, you could also get some (pet-safe) road salt and spread it to help keep them clear.
posted by ourobouros at 8:38 AM on January 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Neighbor A is new, she wouldn't know what "usual" is for you, and if I'd talked to a neighbor a couple of times in the last week I wouldn't be surprised if they knocked on the door. And the other guy, too; he knows you from the dog walking. Sure, knock and say hi; I maybe wouldn't frame it as making sure they're ok during the terrible weather, but a friendly hi, and since you're not at work today do they need a hand with anything. If you're ok with them having your phone number, knowing that they can contact you if they do need help might keep you from worrying.
posted by aimedwander at 8:39 AM on January 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yes, check on them. If you want to give them an easy way to decline, phrase it as an offer, "This weather is just awful, and I wondered if you might need some help? I'd be happy to walk dog/walk along with you, pick up groceries/ shovel your walk" (fill in your offers as necessary). "Here's my number" or "can I check in with you now and then?"

This is a decent thing to do for neighbors.
posted by LaBellaStella at 8:40 AM on January 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

Listen to your gut and go ahead and check. At worst, they may be annoyed, but the odds are they will appreciate that someone (you!) made the effort, and you may just prevent a bad situation from happening.
I wish more of us thought (and acted on) making connections like this!
posted by bookmammal at 8:53 AM on January 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is such a great thought--please do it! We'd all be better off with more neighbors like you.
posted by n. moon at 9:10 AM on January 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

I am the queen of "I'd like to help this person, but what if I am encroaching on their dignity!!!" internal monologues, and I can see nothing odd about this.
posted by praemunire at 9:15 AM on January 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Highly recommended. I've done this with an elderly neighbor when going out for groceries. She was fine but grateful, and asked me to pick up some wine for her. Groceries are more natural than the pretense of cookies - I was going out in the weather anyway.
posted by headnsouth at 9:17 AM on January 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

I think it was last week that I read some article encouraging everyone to please reach out to disabled and older neighbors during the winter months. So I think you are fabulous for asking about this and I think you will be even more fabulous if you do it.

I wouldn’t be indirect because they may not even know how icy the sidewalks are if they have been indoors a lot. I think it’s totally OK to say “hey, just wanted to check and see if you were doing fine because I noticed how icy the sidewalks are.” If you can offer to bring them something from the store, say, you totally should.

I don’t think it’s necessary to make cookies to take. You don’t know their health status. It’s possible they have diabetes or other health issues that do not allow them to eat cookies, and it’s kind of sad to have a big plate of delicious cookies on your counter that you can’t even eat. Making cookies is also time consuming. You don’t need to go that far. Just showing up, knocking on the door, and asking directly is head and shoulders above what practically everybody else in the building is probably doing.

Don’t volunteer to do more than you are willing to do, because that’s not a good idea. You need to take care of yourself too. But if you are willing to pick up something at the store or do something else, add that offer at the end. And if you’re not, no worries. Just go be your friendly self. You are a kind and thoughtful person. Own it!
posted by Bella Donna at 9:18 AM on January 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

Absolutely check in. If you're worried about offending them then check in on everyone and frame it as you making the rounds in the neighborhood just in case anyone needs anything.
posted by Young Kullervo at 9:18 AM on January 2, 2019

The neighbor across the hall, just knock and tell them you are heading to the store, do they need you to pick anything up for them. The man with the cane and dog, I would knock and tell him you missed his puppy and oh, by the way, I am heading to the store, do you need anything.
posted by AugustWest at 9:19 AM on January 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all your encouragement.

I talked to the next-door neighbor. She is from the Midwest and was fine. But when I warned her about the sidewalks, she said she would postpone her errands. She seemed slightly grateful for the gesture.

The man with the cane and the dog didn’t answer the door, so I left a note in the door. The door was ajar, and I don’t know what to think of that.
posted by maurreen at 10:01 AM on January 2, 2019 [8 favorites]

I think if someone's door is ajar and they are not answering it, I would be pretty concerned -- so much so that that would probably overcome my previously mentioned social anxiety and cause me to do things. Obviously you don't want to invade anyone's privacy, but I would at minimum pop my head in the door and loudly ask if anyone is home.

Does your building complex have onsite security or an onsite management? If so, I would ask security to accompany you on a welfare check or to at least phone the resident to check up on them.

YMMV on level of concern, since in some places I've lived, door ajar would be fairly normal if someone had just run to the laundry room or something else within the building and was going to be back within 10 minutes or so.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:21 AM on January 2, 2019 [8 favorites]

Assuming you shouted into the home the first time or knocked loudly, I would check back in an hour or two and see if the door is still ajar. If the dog doesn't come to the door at least... that's puzzling. If it was still ajar, I would call the relevant authorities.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:27 AM on January 2, 2019 [4 favorites]

I am wondering whether I should check on two neighbors who are acquaintances.

In adverse weather conditions, you check in on neighbours who are not even acquaintances.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:15 PM on January 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

I would definitely check back with door-ajar neighbor. If he momentarily stepped out and come back, the door should be shut now and possibly he'll be home to answer. If the door is still ajar, he may have left to go stay with someone and inadvertently left his door open (not good) or he's in there and may need help.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:26 PM on January 2, 2019

Response by poster: I went back in the middle of the afternoon to check on the door that had been ajar, and it was shut. That neighbor's car left and came back during the day.

Now I have given both neighbors my phone number, for future reference.

Thanks all for your advice.
posted by maurreen at 9:37 PM on January 2, 2019 [13 favorites]

Check on them without being obvious about it. Be tactful and indirect. Kindness is always appreciated.
posted by ragtimepiano at 9:06 PM on January 5, 2019

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