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Monday, 10 September 2007

Retired and Single

category_bug_journal2.gif Last week a reader named Joan left a comment saying she would like to read about

“…retired single women without spouse, children or grandchildren who are elder and retired from a career and on disability.”

The flip answer is that except for not being on disability, who do you think has been writing this blog for the past four years.

The real answer is that I have never thought about it much nor have I seen much, if anything, written about it, so I can speak only for myself.

I made a conscious choice, as my biological clock was ticking toward midnight about three decades ago, to not have children. I weighed the decision carefully, considering it for more than a year before letting go of the idea and moving on.

First, I had never felt much of an urge to be a mother. Second, I came to believe that whatever might happen to a marriage after a few years, it is probably best to give a child a shot at two live-in parents and I wasn’t married at the time - although that would not have stopped me if becoming a mother had felt like an imperative.

I have never regretted the decision and I don’t miss not having grandchildren. Or, perhaps it is that with no experience at raising children, I have nothing with which to compare a childless, grandchildless life. It feels normal to me.

That is not to say I don’t care about what life will be like for future generations. I care a great deal and in fact, almost all my political decisions and opinions are predicated on how I think they will affect a longer-term future rather than now or the just next four years.

I have come to like being single at this age, but I think I liked it when I was younger too. It has been a decade or more since I had any thought of marriage. I have friends of a wide age range, and a few who are close enough to call family.

If there is any social stigma attached to being single in old age, I haven’t noticed it and women, due to their longer, average life spans, often live alone in their later years. Most old women I have known were divorced or widowed, if not without children or grandchildren. Most old men I have known, however, were married.

As to retired, it was not my choice. I was forced out after a year of unemployment; not many companies will hire elders - men or women. But this blog and its associated activities engage me as much or more than many of the jobs I worked with the advantage that should I come to dislike it, I won’t need to continue just to pay the rent.

Even if the blog did not take a lot of time or, on the off chance I abandoned it, there are so many things to do, places to go, stuff to learn, I would be as busy. I have never been bored a day in my life and I don’t expect that to happen in whatever number of years I have left. I am certain I will die saying, "Wait a minute, let me finish this book." Or blog post. Or conversation.

There is less money by two-thirds or so than when I was working, but I don’t feel poor. I can’t buy on whim anymore nor can I afford to make mistakes with purchases as I did too frequently in the past. But a fortunate development that seems to come automatically with old age is that I don’t want as much stuff as I once did. And I don’t feel deprived, which was so in my younger years, when I cannot afford something I want.

All in all, I am quite happy in my circumstances.

I mention all this because I have nothing more to go on, in discussing a single old age without children or grandchildren, than my own experience. How about the rest of you? Are there any single, childless, retired people reading this who can enlighten us further?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone continues his story of long-haul trucking in Driving Test - More Than Half a Century Ago.]


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 03:20 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Yes, yes, yes! I was married, but nature decreed that I could not have children. I never really minded that, and despite my happy marriage and the shock of widowhood, I have come to realize that I enjoy living alone.

I never had a strong desire to have children anyway, and have always been a career woman. Like you, Ronni, I now keep very, very busy, in an enjoyable way. I do what I want when I want to, and thanks to a generous pension, I can live where I want and as I want (no, I'm not wealthy, and I'm not a "big spender.")

Unlike you, I'm a bit short of friends, but that's mainly my fault. I've always been a loner. Most of my friends from the past are very involved with children and grandchildren, but I don't really envy them.

I've come to accept myself as I am. That's the real secret of happiness, isn't it?

Maybe I haven't much right to comment as I'm retired but not childless nor single. However, there are times when I wonder what it would be like to be 'on my own'. Both my marriages were disastrous but here I am living with my grumpy husband (I left him several times but took pity on him and let him back into my life) AND my handicapped ex-husband (because I didn't want my kids to be lumbered with caring for him. So, it's not surprising if I feel it might have been preferable to have remained single.

sablonneuse and other married, retired parents and grandparents: of course you have a right to comment. Let's hear from everyone who has some thoughts on this.

One of the dearest people in my life was my husband's Aunt Dora. She had never married, never had children but had been very involved with him. When I came along, she took me out to lunch at a fancy downtown hotel for us to get to know each other. I had neer been in such a place being a country girl even then. She and I became friends. We would talk for hours on the phone about everything. She died of breast cancer, she is still missed. She lived a totally complete life as a single woman, traveled to Europe alone several times, had her own home-- designed by her to her likes-- kept a garden that was always full of beautiful flowers; and my loveliest memory is of her in her shorts standing amongst her flowers, many as tall as she was at barely 5 feet. Even with the heels she almost always wore, she was a tiny mite but a might she was.

For anyone who thinks they must have the love of their life to lead a satisfying life, she proved it a lie. I don't know if she ever had a love of her life but she brought love into friends and family around her without having had kids or grandkids. She was a vibrant, interesting and dear woman.

She and I talked about her having never married or had children and she said she had no regrets. She saw her friends who had settled for somebody to have anybody and she was glad to do things her way-- which she did to the end of her days.

Twenty three years ago I was widowed and have lived alone ever since. My daughter, who lives in another State, and her husband wanted me to live with them and I tried it for six months. It didn't work out because I found that I am too independent to live with someone else.

I love living alone and having the freedom to make my own decisions, even when they are the wrong ones.
I do have children; a step-daughter, a son, a daughter and two granddaughters. I also have 3 step-grandchildren and step-great grandchildren who I never see. They all live in a different state and I rarely see any of them.

I am glad I had my children and we do keep in touch, but not in a clinging manner. Although I am loved and love them, we allow each other to live our separate lives without interference. So, in a sense, I am without the benefit of another person who is close.

I find the days too short to do everything I want to do. I am always reading a book and am now writing my autobiography. Like you, Ronni, I am sure I will leave unfinished business when I depart.

I am divorced with children who live a great distance away so I don't see them often -- so much for children being a blessing in your old age.

I live alone and have come to like it that way and think I will probably stay that way.

I'm not officially retired yet but I only work part-time and will continue to do so as long as I can. I haven't much money but I manage because I'm a frugal sort.

I keep myself busy with my many interests and that keeps me going. Yeah, sometimes I feel lonely but after my last relationship, it's a blessing to be able to do what I want when I want without being nagged about it!

One night I was out with a couple single friends and we started enumerating the good things about being alone. It was interesting as well as pretty hilarious! It took me a while to get used to my single life but I have few regrets and I will think hard before I give it up.

Going straight from high school into the first marriage, and later with four daughters, I've never had the luxury of thinking about being totally independent and alone.

I am remarried for the third (and last) time, have step children still at home, and perhaps will never experience life on my own (except for a brief few months before I remarried).

I may just not be the "loner" type. Perhaps I've construed my life out of some unconscious desire to avoid being alone.

Interesting thought to ponder...

I thoroughly enjoyed about six single years in my younger days; had sworn since childhood I would never marry, but if I did, I certainly wouldn't bring children into this world. Approx. 2 yrs before meeting the man I wed, I had come to the conclusion I might consider marriage, that if I did, having children (limited number) would be acceptable.

I did marry, and we were together almost 43 yrs before he died unexpectedly a little over a year ago. We had children with whom I'm very close despite one living half-way across the country and the other on the opposite coast. I've always believed a child's first obligation is to themselves and raised my children to be independent. If their life situation permits, and the nature of our relationship is such in their mind that they are able or want to be involved in my welfare, than I welcome it. All I did for my own mother, and she for her mother, was predicated on that kind of relationship and it was based on a truly mutually caring undemanding interaction. I have the same with my own children so that what we give to one another is genuine and not based on obligatory behaviors. I make no demands.

Frankly, I thoroughly enjoy being alone again now that I've adjusted to this change since my husband's death. I learned as a child to like being alone without being lonely. I have no desire to live closer to family than what I am, or to badger them to move closer to me, but should that ever happen, it could be nice. I enjoy knowng people, but prefer only a few as close friends. Too many of the latter have died in recent years and many family members, too. So, I've become more involved in activities I enjoy. Perhaps I'll click with new acquaintances, a few of whom, will become friends, or not, and I'm comfortable either way. I have no interest in marrying again.

I don't assume this status quo will continue throughout the rest of my life, but would be nice if it did. Always in the back of my mind is the recognition of how quickly circumstances may change, possibly necessitating a complete adjustment in my own thinking. Should I become infirm, less mobile, who knows how life might look to me then.

I have no siblings and have one son. Years ago when the holidays came around between my husband's family, my family and friends the house was full.

Now as a widow and with the loss of many family members and friends there are very few people to share life's small and special events with.

I think because I am an only chilld I have learned to be alone and not be lonely.

It was a hard adjustment when I lost my husband, we had a good life together but having to learn to go through life alone I have become my own person. Never realized I was so strong.

I'll never forget an occasion when my husband and I were guests at a friends home and the hostess said, "Millie I know you'll have a sweet wine like your husband." WHAT - she didn't think of me as an individual with my own thoughts and taste.

I don't want to be married again, I like coming and going when I want - sometimes supper at six - sometimes at eight.

The older I get I do think it would have been a good thing to have another child, good for me and good for my son.

Maybe that child would have lived far away, maybe near by - but still -

At this point in time I like living alone, not having to adjust to another person's whims.

Things are always changing - so far, so good.

what a great post.

Kudos.

I don't have much to add, as I am married and have 2 children. But it was my choice, not the decisions of the people around me.

I think that your life choice, as long as it hurts no one, should be your own.

My experience pretty much mirrors your own Ronni !! I have had a good life on the whole.

I’m not single, but I AM retired from a career, am 59, and have no children.

From Jr. High age, I felt two things quite strongly. 1) I didn’t want to have kids. 2) I didn’t want to get married til I was around 40. Fulfilling 1) required one abortion along the way, which I do not regret. Fulfilling 2) was interrupted by a 6-week marriage when I was around 20. Then I remained single (and LOVED IT) until I married at age 42.

Many people are wired to dislike being alone. I’m the opposite; most comfortable when I’m alone. My biggest adjustment 19 years ago, when I got married and moved to Sweden all at the same time, was NOT the culture shock of a new country but the shock of having someone in my life ALL THE TIME. Ha. I’m 90% used to it by now, but only because my husband is an understanding man and gives me my ‘space’. (After all, he was a bachelor til he married me! So he’s used to being alone, too.)

I take better care of myself as a married person (AND the older I get). There’s more of a routine to my life, I imagine because most men seem to function best in a world of regularity. So I’ve adapted to his way in some regards. I get more exercise. I eat better… at regular hours… unless he isn’t at home. Then it’s a free-for-all. :)

I’m loving life right now. I’m grateful to have someone to share my ‘aging’ years with. The very real prospect (since we women tend to live longer) of being old and infirm ALONE is frightening. Not death. Death doesn’t frighten me. But dying… now THAT’S scary. I wouldn’t change anything, though. Unless someone could give me more hours in the days to play…

Sorry for the long post. The topic was kind of open-ended… :)

Ronni, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts.

I read recently that 80% of men die while still married and 80% of women die single (e.g. single, windowed, divorced... did I miss anything?). The article was written to motivate women to be very pro-active about their financial future.

But, when I read this post I realised the importance of all women to think about how they want to live as an single elder. On a practical level, we will, in all likelihood, being living alone towards the end of our lives.

I qualify on all criteria except being disabled. I have struggled with the transition from a highly responsible, workaholic CEO to a "retiree". I came to realize in the process that the busy activities of the past helped me avoid the difficult assignment of getting to know myself, and constructing a life that provided joy and serenity.

I am now in the process of doing just that. I am finding joy and peace in long walks with my dogs, the sight of the sun setting over the Shadow Hills where I live, and lending a helping hand to someone in need. I am learning to "be," and that "being" is enough.

There are times that I fear what the future will bring; how will I deal with a chronic illness, the end of my life etc. These are particularly difficult when one does not have a spouse or children to assist. However, I have decided not to worry about such things. I believe that I will find a way as the need arises.

All I worry about is being a burden to my grown child. My mother is 91 and has Alzheimer's and it does come to mind.

Being alone seems natural to me. Being coupled feels constricting. I think that's all changeable depending on who comes along. I'm happy when people do find the right person, but it isn't something I look for.

I'm a retired career woman, divorced over 10 years, age 57, and never had any children. I admit that for a long time, being "childless" bothered me...like I was missing out on one of life's most wonderful gifts, but as the years passed, it bothered me less and less. Now I'm sort of glad I don't have children and grandchildren. I love my independence. I've pretty much given up on the thought of being married again, and I'm okay with that too.

My best friend from childhood has been married for eons and has two children and so far, two grandchildren. Her entire life revolves around her family, kids and grandkids, and she rarely has any time to herself...but she loves her life. I used to envy her, but now I realize that's just not the kind of life I could tolerate at this age.

I enjoy my nieces and nephews when I see them, and am close to my brother and sister. I value my family highly and am blessed with many very good friends. This is all okay with me now. I don't feel "left out" because I'm not babysitting grandkids every day or every week. I like my freedom and my private times.

Gosh. I'm all of those things.

I chose to be childless, and I chose to be single.

I suppose I chose workaholism, as well; which made the non-choice of disability particularly hard to accept.

I'm an introvert by nature, so solitude is not a problem for me -- though the isolation imposed by disability can be a bit extreme, even for me, at times.

My consolations: friends, pets, writing. The world wide web.

You sound quite content.
I'm always encouraged by reading your posts.

In my forties and into my fifties I was single. I've never enjoyed the state of marriage because I think all too often people go into it not really knowing each other or fully realizing the expectation placed on one another. It required 50 years to become comfortable in my own skin, understand who I am and what I want out of life. At a time when I truly found me I met a man just ending a 15 year relationship with someone he thought he might grow to love. I too stood at the alter more than once questioning the wisdom of the marriage I was entering as did he and yet I went forth knowing I could not picture myself enduring year after year with this person, I was not in love. I think I settled on the idea of being alone becaue I was sure I would never find a person I was compatible with or that who might accept me for all my warts and bumps. We each have daughters and have raised them to be independent as well as grandchildren all under the age of 6. We've come to the conclusion that we want a friend, lover, companion to spend our remaining years with, but we are not willing to settle for less than a life filled with passion. In the end that has been the deciding factor for me. I know I can be happy alone because my happiness isn't dependent on any other person. However if I am able to share my life with another person, than that relationship needs to add to not take away from all that I found in the years alone.

Hello I am sitting on my couch thinkong I need a life. I am a very young 63 year old women, widowed after 33 years of marriage. I have been alone for 11 years and I don't like it. I need to meet some women..or men, in the same situation - to hang out with...go to movies, dinner, shopping, theatre, walk, stroll along some beach or boardwalk, skating, sitting on the beach, horseback riding. These are some of the things I want to do but its no fun alone. I am a attractive women...funny...kind. I have a son and 2 grandchildren whom I love very much but can't be on his doorstep everyday...they have a busy life. I went to the seniors centre once but that was not for me. One last thing I love to travel..by car..plane..cruise ship.. What does a person do to meet people?? Any suggestions would be welcome.

Irene, Have you looked into meet-up groups in your area? I retired and moved across country..back to my old college community to be near my elderly mother. The first year was very lonely, even tho I had a few old friends around. Everyone had established deep connections with one another that didn't' include me, although I was invited to the occasional dinner party. Slowly I have met people but it's been a huge adjustment. I had a high powered type of career, running an academic program and I missed the stress and excitement of it all. It was my only identity, since I had no children or siblings. ANyway, the meet up groups in the area have been a big help. They schedule groups to see films and there is a daily breakfast group. Helped a great deal, and the more I got out, the better I felt and as I healed I met new people. Finally, after two years I feel better. I still miss my life as a professional but I am adjusting.

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