Neighbors often get a bad rap these days. While people are quick to tell others about their nosy neighbors or the loud people nextdoor, there are far more stories of helpful neighbors' caring acts that often go untold.

Take Mike, for example. He is a neighbor of an older friend of mine who brings her newspaper from the end of the driveway to her front door every morning. This simple action is cherished by my friend—particularly when the weather is terrible—who loves that she can drink her morning coffee and read the newspaper without changing out of her warm, comfy robe.

Then there is Anne, a woman I know who frequently cooks extra food and lovingly sends it across the street to her older neighbor. Anne's daughter has shown that the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. After her late-night shifts at the local bakery, she always brings the day's extra bagels to that same older neighbor's doorstep.

Do these neighbors seem nosy or bothersome to you?

Community members can be our unsung heroes, ready to watch the dog when vacation comes around or lend a cup of sugar when we forget to run to the grocery store. It's done from the goodness of their hearts and with a smile, because they know that we would do the same for them at a moment's notice.

Aging adults especially can benefit from having a supportive, caring community around them. Whether they are individuals who live close by, service providers who visit the house, or even neighborly passersby, there are many people who love to lend a helping hand when needed.

To an older individual, neighbors can be more than just a big help—they can be a lifesaver.

According to the Administration on Aging, more than one in four (28%) of noninstitutionalized people older than 65 live alone. When that person is your mother, father, aunt or other loved one, their solitary living situation can be worrisome. And sometimes, our older loved ones are reluctant to ask for our help or don't know how to do so.

However, neighbors can provide you with peace of mind.

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Caring neighbors can serve as an "extra set of eyes" for an older person's family. These individuals might notice something that could be amiss: mail or newspapers piling up, troubling behaviors, problems occurring after home care providers leave for the day, or even abusive treatment by others.

Another friend of mine lives a few states away from her mother-in-law. When my friend drove over for a visit and pulled into her mother-in-law's driveway, one of the neighbors ran out of her house and proclaimed, "Thank God the family is here!"

The neighbor had observed certain behaviors from the mother-in-law that she felt were troublesome but not life-threatening. She couldn't shake the feeling that something was not right, but she didn't know how to get in touch with the family. My friend's frequent telephone conversations with her mother-in-law did not reveal any concerns, so she was shocked. It turns out that the neighbor had cause for worry, and the mother-in-law has lived with my friend and her family ever since.

While today society emphasizes privacy, there are few relationships more rewarding than having a neighbor you can count on.

How has a caring neighbor helped you or your older loved one?