Come meet a Southbank neighbour

Come meet a Southbank neighbour
Mary Kay Rauma

I was at a party the other day and a guest asked me how I knew the hosts. “Actually, we met in the elevator,” I replied.

As it turns out, the elevator in our building has been the place where my partner and I first connected with many our friends here – several of whom we now consider family.

Most of us in Southbank are living in vertical villages – a unique environment that can either be very isolating or an incredible opportunity to connect with a United Nations of people. After living through 262 days of lockdowns, many of us learned to adapt to being alone. We are a resilient species that is hard-wired to survive. And survive we did. But, for most of us, it was challenging, and we are still unwrapping the layers of trauma and change to ourselves as a result of living through the emotional and physical toll of COVID in one of the most locked-down cities in the world.

We got very good at being alone. But is that a good thing?

I recently read an article about SuperAgers—people in their 80s that exhibit the cognitive function of someone in their 40s. They’ve found that all SuperAgers share four traits:

  • They are physically active.
  • They continue to challenge themselves with trying and learning things outside their comfort zone.
  • They indulge in moderation.
  • They are social butterflies with strong social networks.

In fact, many studies suggest that social isolation significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes – a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. Social isolation was associated with about a 50 per cent increased risk of dementia.


Social media and being tethered to our mobile devices has only increased the façade of human connection without actually doing so. We don’t even have to call and speak to one another anymore – texting has become the norm so much so that when our phone rings our first impulse is that it’s a sales call. 


I speak of all of this because I do all of this. But I know that in doing so I’m missing out.

I’m grateful for Southbank3006 president David Hamilton, who always calls and rarely texts. Inevitably, the reason he calls is sorted in the first few minutes of what becomes a long chat during which I always learn something, have a good laugh, and hang up happy.

I’m grateful for my partner who unabashedly strikes up conversations with people during our elevator rides – even going so far as jumping out on another floor so we can exchange numbers. Then doing the work of following up, even if it takes a few tries. We’ve made some of our best friends this way.

I’m grateful for the people who, when I’m out and about in the world, strike up a conversation or respond to my reaching out to them with a smile and interest. No matter how fleeting, I am always better for these connections. They enhance the colour of my life’s tapestry.

In late November I attended TEDxMelbourne and heard people speak around the theme of Kintsugi – the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the breakage with lacquer or powdered gold. The artform is the physical manifestation of a philosophy that treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. In doing so, something broken becomes even more beautiful than it was before.

Our Southbank community, along with all of Melbourne, cracked under the hardship of lockdowns, but through our repair of those cracks, we can become stronger and better than before. Southbank3006 emerged from a desire to mend breakages and has become the catalyst for connecting us to one another and addressing issues imperative to making Southbank a better place to live.

On December 10, we will bring the community together in an epic celebration like none other seen before in Southbank with A Very Merry Friend-Mas. This is just the beginning of much more Southbank3006 has in store. The best way to stay informed of the many opportunities we are creating for connection is to join Southbank3006. If striking up a conversation in the elevator isn’t your thing, I can assure you that meeting new people and forging meaningful relationships is just around the corner at one of our events. We look forward to meeting you!

MaryKay Rauma is a founder of Southbank3006 a not-for-profit community and advocacy group focused on connecting residents and improving the liveability of Southbank. All Southbank residents are encouraged to join for free at

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