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Old and Living Alone - Or Not

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, the percentage of people age 65 and older living alone increased from six percent in 1900 to 29 percent in 1990. And then it declined to 26 percent by 2014.

But that's the average of men and women. Divide them up and what you get is that the number of women in that age group living alone declined from a high of 38 percent in 1990 to 32 percent in 2014.

For men, the direction reversed beginning in 1990 from 15 percent living alone to 18 percent in 2014. Here's the chart:

EldersLivingAlong2014

One reason for the change, reports Pew, is that an increase in life expectancy means that more women are living with spouses rather than as widows. Further, says Pew:

”Overall, women still make up a majority of the 12.1 million older U.S. adults living alone, but their share has fallen significantly over the past quarter century – from 79% in 1990 to 69% in 2014.”

This isn't intended to be a post about statistics of living alone but a couple of graphs set the stage a bit. This one, also from the Pew research, shows how many more men and women 85 and older are living alone. Look at the yellow areas in the two bottom graphs:

LivingArrangements

Okay, I'm done with charts and statistics. If you want more detail, the Pew Research study has a lot of it.

What I would like us to talk about today is how we feel about living alone or not, and what appears to be – at least when you read as much about ageing as I do – a media epidemic of scaring the pants off old people who do live alone and their adult children.

Take a look at these three photos from, in order, a news magazine story about elder living arrangements, a caregiving website and the website of a regional U.S. assisted living corporation:

old Woman on bench

Elder at stairs

Lonely-old-woman-sitting-by-window500

How do you feel about these photos? How do they make you feel about yourself? What do you suppose younger adults think about old people when they repeatedly see this type of photograph?

These are only a sampling. I could show you dozens of similar stock photographs of lonely, frightened old people many of which accompany stories about “the dangers of seniors living alone.” Go ahead, Google it.

Commercial retirement communities use them as sales tools and reporters or editors unthinkingly use them as illustrations for such stories as the Pew research which, in this case, is neutral on the reasons elders choose one living arrangement over another.

This is not the first time I've ranted here about alone not being a synonym for lonely. Nor does living alone in old age automatically mean that something awful will happen to you or that you're afraid all the time. But the media is good at overkill.

Old people wind up living alone for many reasons: widowhood, divorce, never married and hey – how about this one: choice.

An excellent New Zealand ageing researcher, Dr Judith Davey, who blogs for Age Concern New Zealand and is also a senior research associate with the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, notes that the most frequent answer from elders about why they live alone is “freedom, choice and control and independence”. Further

”One person summed it up,” wrote Davey, “'(living alone) allows us to do what we want, when we want, and how we want'. This does not sound like a pathological state!” [as some have defined elders who live alone].

I live alone because I always have - well, almost always. I was married for six years and I lived with another man for four years but that's just 10 years out of the 60 I've lived since I left home. I'm comfortable in my aloneness.

When I think about it too hard, I can convince myself that living alone is a certain kind of selfishness akin to not having children. But I don't want my thinking interrupted as I write this any more than I ever wanted a short human tugging at my sleeve.

And, anyway, who does that selfishness – if that's what it is – harm? No one I can see.

It's important to acknowledge that sometimes I am lonely. Lonely for what my one-time father-in-law explained about the years he and his wife had lived together: “there's another heartbeat in the house,” he said.

But having a partner is no guarantee. I was deeply lonely during the last couple of years of my crumbling marriage.

As the above photographs imply, maybe I'll fall down the stairs (if I had any) or maybe I'll have a stroke with no one around to help. Maybe I will become too weak to bathe myself or too addled to pay the bills. Or cook. Or...

All true and there is a lot we could discuss about that and about becoming socially isolated or gradually losing our minds to dementia and more – all the stuff that the age media uses to scare us into buying retirement community condos.

But the truth is a large majority of elders make it to the grave living on their own so for now, I'll take my chances and flatter myself that I will be able to recognize, if the time comes, that I need to change my living arrangements.

What I am curious about today is how TGB readers who live alone – and partnered readers who have thought about the possibility of being alone one day in their old age – deal with living by yourselves.

Do you like it? Did you choose it? Do you worry about living alone? Would you like to change your living circumstances? What would trigger such a change?

Have you thought about other kinds of arrangements? Retirement community? Take someone into your home if it is big enough? A Golden Girls household? Co-housing? Something else?

Let us know.

Comments

I live alone by choice. Yes, sometimes I get lonely and then I do something about that. But I've always been more of a loner by choice and I know that living in some kind of communal arrangement would make me crazy. I have a lot of hobbies, am never at a loss for something to do, have a wonderful dog and we walk several times a day. I do have some acquaintances I could call on if necessary and in my location there are many home care agencies to call on so there is that. Maybe I'm living in a fantasy world but it's a world of my choosing.

I love living alone. I crave the peace and quiet. I like the independence. When I've had enough alone time, I have options for getting out and around people that are easy and simple. It works perfectly.

I am a 70 year old widower; my wife passed away four years ago. At first, after I got through the grieving, I thought I might want somebody else in my life. So, I dated some and for a while, another woman did move in with me. I thought we might build a life together.

But eventually, I found that wasn't working and we split up. Since then, I've come to realize that I relish living alone and I have no desire to live with another now. As you mention in your blog, it's about being able to do what you want to do when you want to do it. And it's about knowing exactly where things are. And having a great deal of independence.

While I had a wonderful marriage of 41 years and I have a happy family life with kids and grandkids nearby, I find that I like being single and living on my own. And I don't get lonely. I'm involved in a lot of activities and I have lots of books I'm always reading. How can a person get lonely when there's always something to read?

I no longer date and no longer have an interest in living with another person. And I've never been happier.

Those pictures don't relate to me at all. At 84 yrs old, I'm very happy with my 'aloneness.' I've lived alone since 1998 and can't imagine moving into any kind of communal living or even in with any of my children. My daughter drives me to medical appointments, and I do need to use a walker, otherwise I am able to do everything else without help.

As I was reading Time Goes By this morning, what immediately came to mind, Ronni, was how I got introduced to you and your wonderful TGB. I had never heard of you, but suddenly there was a piece in the NY Times about living alone. And that interests me, since I have lived alone, out of choice or necessity, for many years now. So I read it - and I am sure that the rest is imaginative remembering on my part - but I do remember thinking why the hell is this just about young people? Who to my mind have multiple reasons to live alone, to live with others, etc., who try things out, who have many years ahead of them to settle on someone, or some preference - many more than I.

So I was just about to stop reading - when there you were. A great photograph, and a great amount of wit --- and here is where my imaginative remembering takes over, what I "remember" is your saying that you especially liked being able to leave the bathroom door open.. I laughed, but above all, I was impressed - and of course followed up on the Times' providing your website address - and the rest is history.

For years, I lived part of the time alone because I was commuting weekly between Minneapolis, where I was teaching at the university, and Madison, where my then spouse taught, and where our kids lived [except for one year when I was teaching in Missouri and they accompanied me]. Things changed over time, kids grew up, etc. - and after awhile we were no longer a married couple.

Since then - and that was after 10 years of commuting - I have lived alone. Honestly, I haven't your clarity, I go between the enormous benefits, but also the sadnesses, the difficulties, the fears that increasing age and a sense of increasing isolation bring. I have good friends. I am a solitary sort anyway, and mostly I like that, like the idea that I can do what I want when I want it.

But friends move away (including at least two who now are also hooked on TGB, by the way). Fears brought on by advancing age grow. I have too much time to think morbidly about things. I find that the dream I nourished for years of running about too much when I commuted, about having huge stretches of time to write, which is actually the big thing in my life, is not quite so tangible any more.

And sometimes, I am overjoyed to be with others. With the 100,000 at St. Paul's Women's March, for example.. Or with close friends. Or with my daughter and her children and my great-grandchild who now live out in your general area, and I feel that distance a lot..

So with me, it is not a clear choice. I love living alone. And then I don't. I nourish fears, but then, at least sometimes, I conquer them and feel better. Maybe the "answer" here is that this isn't a vote, right, we aren't going to determine some firm answer by means of people's choices. Whatever works best will vary. And there is no room to judge others.

Finally, Time Goes By has been and still is wonderful company for me, every single day.

I've lived alone more than half of my adult life. Forty when I first married, I enjoyed living with my late husband, but after the worst pangs of grief passed I was once again at peace as a solitary woman. Nearly 68, I became a committed volunteer when I retired from the workplace, so I am as busy as I've always been.

There are moments when I'm lonely. Yes, I talk to my dog (but less to my cat). I still feel awkward as the single at a couples dinner party, but perhaps that is a social thing I'll never escape. It's certainly not something to worry about.

Like my mom, I eschew the "widow things."

Thanks for the "Old and Living Alone—or Not," Ronnie. It was a stimulating way to begin my day.

Ronni, my story is much like yours. I was married for a few years when I was young, but married life wasn't for me. I lived with someone for a few years but that didn't turn out well. At 74, I seriously doubt I'll try that again.

I love to read and neither of my exes seemed to be able to tolerate that. I'm down to one cat now, a wonderful companion, but I've always had animals. I think that helps.

If it makes any sense, I get involved in projects and can lose myself in them. I'm learning to paint and sculpt and having a great time with it. I couldn't care less that I have no talent. I bake and have other pastimes I also enjoy.

I can't remember the last time I was lonely but it was a very long time ago. The autonomy and freedom of living alone are part of the joy of my life.

You do pose good questions, Ronni, and find fascinating articles to discuss.

There are those who need/want others around them at all times; then there are the others. I'm one of those who really appreciates living alone - well except for the traditional cat!

Married for 33 years, and now widowed for almost as many, I've explored the possibility of living in 'senior living' and while for many, that is a solution, it was not and is not for me.

I have friends, hobbies, and above all, books. And I have solitude when I want it.

It's an existence that works for me.

I live alone by choice as well. I love this time in life where I'm free to do as I wish moment by moment. I was married twice, raised two sons, worked from the ages of 16-66. I paid my social dues and now I so enjoy my solitude and not having to weigh my needs against others.

I recently moved into a senior apartment complex. There are lovely people here if I want to spend time with others, but there are no enforced social activities etc.. I'm a happy introvert after successfully navigating an extroverted world, and this new home is perfect.

For my 70th birthday gift to myself later this month I'm filling out and dispensing my end of life papers, a letter to my son's on how to disperse the few (but loved) possessions I have left, researching a natural burial or cremation options and then I'm going to live as well as I can as long as I can... a plan that's been in place for 10 years. Another plus for living alone is that should I experience a "health event" I'm hoping to slip out unmolested by anyone interrupting my dying.

I've made peace with death, have no desire to live long under intense medical care, and at some point, I hope to be aware enough to know it's time to head to "Alpha Centauri" - our family code for death 😍. My sons are aware of how I feel... and given the plans of the current political administration, I think we all recognize it's a good plan.

I'm shooting for another 10 years and planning for each day as it comes. I worked in healthcare for 40 years, I've seen first hand what is called health care and for older adults it's not about care at all.

As an aside, there's an excellent article or two by a doctor who writes about why, if given a cancer diagnosis with no chance of recovering, he wouldn't undergo the treatments he encourages his patients to engage.

Excellent topic Ronni!

Like so many of the people who commented on living alone, I love it. I have my friends for company when I need company, my children and grandchildren when visiting them is workable (they live 1000 and 2000 miles away) and classes and exercise and walking and my books and even some work (but not at all like it once was--that is, all consuming). I am always happy to come home after an evening out and know that no one expects anything of me. I know that if I "disappear" or don't pick up my newspaper for any time someone will try to track me down and I also know that if and when I can no longer manage on my own I can leave my condo and move to some congregate setting. I also recognize that I am relatively privileged--I live in a neighborhood where I can comfortably walk, where the park district offer free exercise classes and where my condo is bright and feels safe. I am grateful for these privileges just about every day. Everyone should have them.

Aside from 20 years of marriage, I've lived alone in my adult years, and as an introvert, much prefer it. I can't imagine having someone else around all the time, especially in this tiny house. When I see those ads on TV showing retirement homes -- a bunch of nicely dressed elders sitting around chatting and playing cards together (or, god forbid, bingo) -- I cringe in horror. Ditto group homes, nursing homes, etc.

Yet the realities of an aging body have come on rather abruptly since my illness, and at times my imagination and anxiety/fear drive me to tears. So many bad things could happen to me here alone, especially now that I can't move as quickly and easily as before. But I still can't imagine living with someone else. At times I think it would be nice to have someone around to help or comfort me, but in the reverse, selfishly, I don't want to be responsible for someone else.

So I'm happy and content alone -- except for those times when anxiety gets the best of me.


I am 69 and have never lived alone in my whole life. I was raised in a large family as one of eight and seem to remember most of my young life trying to find somewhere to get off alone, away from everyone. I married when I was 17 and quickly had two children. My marriage has always been stressful and I can see now that I should have gotten out of it years ago when I could, or even better never gotten into it. I long so much to live alone. I know I am going to feel so much guilt if the day comes that my husband is gone and my wish comes true. But that thought is sometimes what keeps me going - that someday I will be responsible for only myself, that I can do what I want, where I want. My husband and I do not give each other much companionship these days anyways and I have very little life outside the home. I know that some day I will have to do something about that but for now I am enjoying my isolation. I have a lot of interests and hobbies and tons of online friends around the world.

Great article! It is indeed a disappointment we see fewer representations of happy and active seniors who are alone. I happily choose to live alone for all the reasons others and you have mentioned. I have come to realize about myself that I do better alone; not living with someone (family, friend, lover, etc.). The freedom is so welcome and appreciated. Plus, I do not live in fear of what may or may not happen in the future; that is something I cannot control. Why waste energy on such worries? I prepare, but then I go on to live my life day by day. When I feel a twinge of loneliness, I get busy, and the loneliness disappears. I chose to not have children and have no regrets. Now I choose to be alone, and it is grand.

I was married for 39 1/2 years. I was widowed in 2003 and have lived alone, happily, since then in the same apartment I moved into after I sold our house. Well, when I say alone it doesn't include my cats. I garden in pots and although I wish my health was better and I had the money and a companion to go to concerts, plays, or movies once in a while, I am very contented. It helps that I love to read and am an introvert. I'll be 76 this year and today I'm having lunch with a friend to celebrate her 83rd birthday. Every once in a while, just to test myself, I think about living with someone and then I cringe.

Though I'm living with my spouse, my mother at 96 has been widowed for 13 years and I think I can speak for her in saying she very much enjoys and prefers to live alone. I did take her for a tour of an adult complex (independent apartments) but she wouldn't consider it--"it's just not home". She has her chihuahua as a companion, and with my daily visits to check on her and do the things she can't do/has difficulty doing, she says she's not lonely at all. Her personality has always been very introverted and she also claims that with all the reading she does, she's not lonely. She loves being able to maintain her own schedule...if she wants to be up much of the night and sleep much of the day, there's no one pestering her to do otherwise. At this point in her life I would actually prefer that she live with us, but neither of our houses is large enough to accommodate the three of us. So far it's working.

Interesting article...I am 77 and always wanted to have a man in my life. Raised in a family with 4 girls the first time I lived alone was freshman year in college, then married my high school B/F. To make a long story short: married 3 X totaling 42 years and in between raised 3 wonderful children from first marriage.

This marriage is 20 years plus we dated 2 years and I know I will miss him terribly should he die before I do. We love to travel and yes, have our differences as do most of us in long term relationships. But we are both glad we found each other as neither of us wanted to grow old alone.

We are talking now about what each would do should we be widowed re the house, lifestyle changes, etc. I would not want to have another man in my life at this stage as do not want to take care of anyone but me and the cats. I still have lots of responsibilities, and my own bank, investment accounts, so I would continue to manage just fine - but I do not like the idea of senior residences, or God forbid, nursing homes and glad California has death with dignity laws.....time will tell.


Thanks for reporting that the LARGE majority of elders" make it to the grave alone!" Yahooo! I'm so glad to know that, that's what I hope to do. My mother did.
Loneliness doesn't scare me, it happens sometimes, and I give myself a dose of compassion, and go on. Solitude I love. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think, " Oh, no one coming, and I don't have to go anywhere!" That's a good day. And, like so many others, books are good friends for me, and good films.
I was married for 36 years. I don't want to live with someone again.

I was married for 50 years until my husband died. We had a house full of pet birds and an old dog. I couldn't afford to stay in our mobile home, so I rehomed my birds. My dog and I moved into senior housing but I never thought of myself as alone. I soon had to euthanize my old dog and then I was truly alone for the first time in my life. I'm an introvert and don't like to socialize much. Now I will get a cat and no longer be living alone!

Like many others, I'm terrified by the idea of living in a retirement community or nursing home. I want to stay in the house my husband and I and our cat live in.

My husband and I have had a fair amount of remodeling done---not to widen hallways for a wheelchair (which neither of us need)---but to add a second bathroom. That's essential when two old people drink as much coffee as we do.

The photos are interesting. Photo 1 could be me sitting on a bench on a nature trail in Seattle where I walk alone nearly every day---looking across Lake Washington at the Olympic Mountains.

I don't see the old woman as exemplifying loneliness, but quietly contemplating and appreciating the beauty of the Northwest.

Love the comments from your "Living Alone" blog post this morning, Ronni. As several others commented, I also lived alone following my husbands death-for about 5 years. Then I started having balance issues and took a bad fall, resulting in a hip fracture. At the time, my youngest daughter & family were searching for property to build on so we made a deal...I essentially gave them the acre I owned in suburban Portland, OR. in exchange for them building me an apartment onto their new home. After all the permits and construction were done, we all moved into a lovely house on the property my children grew up in. We had to tear the old house down---it was almost 75 years old and had been built by the first owner pretty piecemeal-it wouldn't pass any code known to mankind.

I have a door that can shut me off from the families living room and when it's closed they knock before coming in. But I also am as active with my daughter and family as we want to be-I tote grand daughter to after school dance and gymnastics classes, and cook 3 nites a week..the notes my daughter, who owns her own business, has clients. I frequently do the family shopping but never have to carry all the bags into the house by myself.

While daughter and grand daughter are gone all day, my son-in-law works from home so if I have a problem (falls are my most worrisome problem) Brian will come and check on me..He even came in the day a shelf full of African Violets came crashing down, spreading glass, dirt and plants all over my kitchen. And helped me clean up. We get along nicely.

If I'm ill-I've had a flu bug that I hadn't been able to shake since last December-someone brings me dinner if I want it. When grand daughter comes home she checks in with dad and Nana, gets homework help and sometimes I fix her a snack prior to dance - sometimes her dad does.

My daughter says "Brianna has 3 parents"...I feel very fortunate to be able to be just as much alone as I wish to be. We've lived here for almost 2 and a half years and while occasionally my daughter will get on my nerves or vice versa, for the most part we try to be as nice to each other as we are to friends. Please and Thank You go a long way!

As an aside, I've been seeing my very first high school boyfriend since last summer-he lives near Santa Barbara and has flown down here several times. We're slowly trying to see if our first puppy love will develop into an adult relationship. He loves SoCal-but I have no desire to move away from all my family so we have an issue there. Negotiations are interesting right now. We shall see, meanwhile I volunteer occasionally, have been very active in going to our State Senators offices (fortunately they are good Democrats) but theres a core group of about 100 people who show up on tuesdays to say thanks, present problems etc. And I now make my daily call to congress..love that website you gave us monday, Ronni.

Be well-Your neighbor Elle

I had what I consider a long, happy marriage -- and yet, part of that was because he and I both treasured being independent. He always had his hobbies, and I had mine (and respected each other's time spent apart involved with those.) When he died eleven years ago, I did go through a period of grieving and loneliness...even dated off and on. However, I had always secretly thought I'd like living alone, and have adjusted well now.

What I HATE though is living in a house that requires constant maintenance, upkeep and yard care. Finding reliable, trustworthy handymen has tried my patience and pocketbook. Therefore, I have started thinking about either a condo or senior housing -- but the big drawback is having two dogs. One is getting very old, and he loves having a big yard to run in; the other is small, and would be content without a yard. I also feed neighborhood stray cats, and have always had either a cat or dog.

In the area where I live (north Alabama) there is not a lot of senior housing for independent living. Lots of assisted living facilities, which I have also researched and visited -- but the mingling and possible pressure of "socializing" might not be to my liking (especially since I am somewhat solitary and introverted).

I guess my fear is that my arthritis and back issues, in addition to foot problems lately, will incapacitate me to the point I can't manage daily housekeeping chores OR pet care. I am fine living alone, but can foresee a time when I'll either need daily assistance and/or someone to help with those essential things. IF I live that long; I'm 65, but starting to feel my age...

Interesting topic! Always learn from your posts and the comments too.

Those photos -- argh! The purpose is to scare us, obviously. I try to consider the source of any information I read --especially these days -- and to be aware of their motives for what they are showing and telling me. They are trying to scare us into buying their services.

I'm 55 and have been divorced and living alone for two years now. Although I do sometimes succumb to fears of aging alone, when I try to imagine myself being willing to live with another person again, I feel a strong resistance to the idea. I love having my own space. Do I feel lonely sometimes? Of course. But lonely enough to sacrifice my privacy and independence? Not at this point. Who knows what the future may bring for me, but right now I'm happy living alone. I can socialize as much as I want to, knowing that I can always retreat to my sacred space for as much alone time as I need.

My biggest fear, honestly, is about health care. I'll be booted off my COBRA coverage at the end of this year. The uncertainty surrounding the health insurance situation is very unsettling to me. I have money set aside to support myself in retirement, but I worry about my ability to stay independent if health insurance and/or health care expenses take much more of a chunk out of my cash. I'm an atheist but I've found myself praying that I won't get an expensive illness.

I wrote a long comment earlier, but a phone call made me take too long and it wouldn't post. So I will shorten it and hope the phone doesn't ring.

Paraphrasing Sophie Tucker on her famous statement that she had been rich and had been poor, but rich is better I will state that I have lived alone and have lived with someone and being with someone is better.

After the death of my husband I lived alone for 30 years and didn't mind it at all. I loved the freedom mentioned by others and adjusted to being responsible for myself, but life took a different turn after my daughter got divorced and her girls were able to fly out of the nest. It became practical for her to move in with me.

That was fortuitous when I fell and fractured my vertebrae. I don't know how I would have managed if I had been still living alone. A second fall was even more debilitating and I would have undoubtedly ended up in a dreaded nursing home if I had been living alone.

So it all boils down to one's own circumstances on whether the single life or having a roommate is better. There are advantages to both as well as disadvantages.

Now I will quickly post this without editing before Type Pad tells me again that I have been too pokey and exhausted my time.

Those photos remind me of a Montreal radio station that I quit listening to years ago. Why?

Relentless ads aimed at seniors.

Is your basement flooding?
Have you made your will?
Are you ready to sell your home?
Are your pants on fire? (Ok not this one, but.)

All meant to frighten seniors.

I ain't scared of no ghost.

I enjoy being half of a busy couple, and I come from a big family. If my DH pops off, I will remain close to my siblings.

The thought of living in a senior home makes me shiver, because it totally reminds me of a school staff room.

No privacy. Some people refuse to sit with a new person. There is gossip. I don't want to live allupcloseandpersonal like that. Call me a loner, I don't mind.

Hiwever it took me a long time to realize that some people love having an entourage. They were like that in high school, walking down the hall in a group.

I was the opposite. Had a few good friends and was fine.

Also shy away from overlyclose friendships because as a kid I was the recipient of mean girl bullying. I learned to depend on me.

I like having lots of acquaintances, but my family is my refuge. We live close enough that if I were to end up alone, I'd be okay.

I would continue to volunteer, take fitness classes and write.

This is an excellent topic, Ronni.


Ah, another spelling mistake. Gee, maybe it's time to downsize.

Nah.

It's the tablet's fault. It thinks

Hiwever is a word.


My own photos are of me kayaking, hiking by myself or with others, singing in a choir, etc. I am 75. I've had two 15 yr marriages which were unhappy in different ways and one 16 yr relationship with a terrific guy who died of Alzheimer's. Altogether, most of my adult life until about eight years ago I was living with a man. Then I had people live in my large house as renters or workers. My current buddy is a surrogate daughter who cleans, watches over things when I travel, and mats my photographs.

But I now have wet macular degeneration and have had six concussions. I also have periodic hemiplegic migraines which accentuate the confusion and memory loss. So from the neck up, I should have a much simpler life than my big house and three acres requires. I'm "on the list" for a senior living facility in town. Once there's an apartment with a tree out the window, I'll move. I'll be able to walk to the library and lots of other good places. Because I now live in the country, I have to drive EVERYWHERE which poor vision will make dangerous.

I suppose I could have rented a small apartment in town. But I kind of like having people nearby while having my own private place. It will be an adventure seeing how it really feels to live there. I'll be starting a new blog soon to write it up. Or maybe I'll write a book of essays. But I still have about 10 movies to create of my adventures in 2016.

An interesting discussion and, once again, a timely one. Yesterday was a slow one for me, sitting at the mostly empty polling place for our local primary, waiting for the few people who came in to vote for one of the four candidates in the two races in that precinct. One of those four candidates woke up today as the Republican candidate for mayor, and one will become the new alderman for that ward when the general election is held in April. Only 58 out of 600+ registered voters in that precinct where I was assigned turned out. It made for a very slow day and would have been boring, if not for the interesting people I met who were also working there that day.

At one point, the woman I spent the most time talking with mentioned she had bought a five bedroom house about ten years ago, with the plan that she and her two 0lder sisters would share it. Now she lives there with only an adult son, and at the end of this month, she is selling the house and they both are going on to separate living arrangements. Her sisters are both still alive, but one, now 78, moved out and into a care facility when dementia began creating problems and the other, now 83, goes from place to place as an interim Unitarian minister. When Unitarians find themselves without a minister, they get an interim one who can stay no longer than two years and can never be a long-term minister anywhere. This is what that sister chose to be when, late in life she decided to go into the ministry. I find that fascinating and congratulate her for being so flexible and tolerant of an itinerant lifestyle. Personally, I am not that adventurous, and would not like to be uprooted that frequently, but I admire someone who can not only adapt to that routine, but seeks it out.

Like so many others here, books are a joy and, though I live with a spouse, they fill much of my need for intellectual stimulation, entertainment, comfort, and inspiration. I have always shared a home with someone, first my birth family, then a roommate and two others in a boarding house, and then my husband. I don't think living alone would bother me, though. I stay busy when I want to be, but also treasure quiet time alone doing what I choose.

Several years ago, I began gardening with native plants and encouraging wildlife, and these are now like family. Looking forward to the return of the plants and the migratory birds each year helps me through the bleak winter months and affords me vast pleasure as I observe the progress of nature as things are pollinated and, in turn, share their nectar with some of the most amazing creatures.

One more check on the blank for living alone and loving it. I was married for 54 years until my husband, Dick, died last September. He had been in a nursing home for the past four years with Lewy Body Dementia, Parkinson’s and effects of an aneurysm. I was so happy for him when he died that I would have done cartwheels at his memorial service had I been physically able to do them. I got used to being alone when he was in the nursing home with the debilitating effects of his dementia. I grieved a thousand losses in our relationship as he progressed through his dementia.

I was an “only child”, married Dick and we had seven children with 17 years between oldest and youngest!! We spent 34 years raising our children. We both went back and got our college degrees during that time and I worked up until 3 years ago. I so enjoy being alone and never get lonely. I have my books, my movies, my artsy projects and my cooking. Have kind of reverted back to “only child”…I am so happy when I wake up in the morning and don’t have to go to work…my schedule is open. After watching my husband decline, I am also just so grateful when I can jump out of bed in the morning, both feet work, can pee on my own, think straight and get into my day. I have served my time doing community volunteer work through the years and now I feel the time is for me. My children are all working and involved with their families and although we get together occasionally, they are not a big center piece in my life at this time. They are there if I need them or need something done. I am available if they need me to babysit or attend a school function or sports activity.

Ronni - Thanks for this article on living alone....It was therapeutic!!!

My spouse and I think about this and talk about it often. We are both in just about perfect health; I am 71 and she is 68. I am retired and she is not. We live in a house in Seattle with an apt. in our basement and a big back and front yard. We have always said that when one of us dies the other will sell the house and move into a condo, as this is too much house/yard for one person.

Recently a neighbor of ours who is 76 and in poor health had a stroke. She lives with a mildly intellectually disabled daughter and a teenaged granddaughter. She's now in a mess, as she needs care and her daughter is not reliable. Bills have not been paid. Car tabs have not been renewed. It's just one of the worst-case scenarios, and has caused me to rethink things.

We are now what is becoming referred to as elder orphans - no children, no family really. We have friends who are somewhat younger who wouldn't let either of us rot, but speaking for myself, I don't want to be dependent on anyone. I like my time alone and have lived alone happily before in my life.

I have no answers or new ideas except that this is timely and always somewhat on my mind. We are downsizing in terms of our "stuff" and would love to sell our house, but we don't want to move away from Seattle and anything we would buy would use up all the money from the sale of our house.

It's a conundrum, alright. Co-housing is one answer, but everyone talks about it, and I haven't seen anyone try it yet. Meanwhile I'll just keep trying to live in the present, keep my affairs in order, and take things one step at a time.

I've been married 3 times (most of my adult life), raised four children, worked . . . only the third marriage was successful, but he died unexpectedly five years ago. My daughter and her husband and two children moved in for a year or so to help me deal with things (old house, more acreage than I could manage, etc.) but then moved out. I sold the house and land, bought a tidy small house on a half acre of land in a small town across the mountain and am as happy as the proverbial clam. I'm twenty minutes away from my parents—in their mid-80s and in bad health, so I am over there three or four times a week; fortunately, my brother and sister are closer so we share tasks. I have six cats and a dog, all rescues; a LOT of books and CDs; I knit and sew and garden in pots (hurt my back last summer, so digging anything other than small holes is out.) My daughter comes over once a week to just hang out and do things that are difficult for me to manage (i.e., taking boxes down to the basement, fetching bags of mulch, etc.).

I have the best of worlds, I think. I always wanted to live alone—I'm introverted and becoming more so as I age—and now I can. Not sure for how long (I'm 66 and live where driving is a must), but I am going to enjoy it as long as possible and then re-invent my life again.

Husband dead, and kids now adults and moved on. I'm 65 and living alone for the last 5 years. I married at 32 and had 3 kids soon after so there was never enough "alone" time with my husband. Now there is all the time to know my husband again - but too late. That is a matter of regret and pain.

I'm an introvert and enjoy the open schedule of each day. I wish there was a legal option to exit when one felt it was time - good for everyone, I think. I worry sometimes when I step out of the bathtub of slipping and broken hip etc.

When I read the comments above, I am struck of how many in their 60s and 70s feel frail and... then think of that nutter who at 70 years has started the world's toughest job, for what may be for 8 years!! (I admit I had similar thoughts when Camilla married Charles, that she had a much more glamorous wedding than her own kids!).

I think about other living arrangements all the time because I am alone. I am widowed. I have no children. I have a small family. Just one sibling who started his family late. He has 2 children. I have good friends but they're all the same age or older! LOL

It scares me. Dad has a stroke 2 years before he passed away. I saw what was behind the curtain. I know what to expect. I'm hoping it will change but I doubt it.

I really don't want to be alone. But, as we see in the above graphics, most men are married and living with their spouse. The above graphics were interesting because nursing home care seems to have shifted, since 1990, to children and spouses. I hope people are living longer because they are healthier.

HATE those "old people" photos. They're intended to scare elders and their adult kids, I have no doubt! I've been married to my husband for almost 40 years. We're both total introverts and share our lives and home with great respect for each other's space. Except for brief periods of flying solo between my 1st marriage at 21 and 2nd at 31, I haven't lived alone for any period of time.

I'm not sure what I would do if my husband predeceases me, which could happen since he's 7 years older. I realize that I'm probably not prepared (although we've done wills and other essential paperwork and pre-paid our cremation). I know I would NOT want to live in a situation that requires me to socialize or participate in various activities. I value my autonomy and independence highly. On the other hand, I'm not sure I could maintain our current residence on my own, and it's more space than I'd need (although the cats wouldn't agree).

As far as biological family, I'm childless by choice and, like Ronni, have no regrets even in old age. I've always felt, and still do, that my husband's adult children don't "owe" me care or support. I have a close relationship with his youngest son, who lived with us from age 13 to adulthood, but he has his own busy and productive life. In my final years I may be pretty much alone, which will have to be O.K. That said, I HOPE not to linger beyond the point of being able to meet my own basic care needs.

Note re "losing" a post if the allowable 30 minutes have elapsed: if I get interrupted or think I won't finish a post I've started, I copy it (Cntl +C) to the clipboard; then I can come back, paste it into the blank comment window and go from there (Cntl + V). Works for me.

Define living alone. I don't know if I qualify. I live independently in my own apartment home in an independent living Co-operative for people over 55. So, I take care of myself, but I have others to interact with if I choose to.

My husband also lives in the building, but in his own space as well. We came to the mutual realization that we would be much happier as an aging couple if we did not continue to occupy the same space and fuss a lot over its environment and our place in it.

I probably have a rather unique situation, but so far, I'm satisfied with the Co-op community which is much like a very small town, and being captain of my own ship. My 4 daughters are very glad that they don't have to worry about me, yet.

My husband and I made this move when we both started losing our eyesight and he developed COPD with need for oxygen equipment. We were able to afford two one bdrm. units with money left over after the sale of our much too large townhouse. Now we feel safer with caring friends nearby and expect assistance with transportation when we can't drive any longer. There's also Uber and taxis.

So, I don't exactly live alone, but so far I am independent and enjoy my own space.

It's better to live alone than live with someone you don't like, or don't like anymore. It must be hard to live alone as a widow; but again, it's better to be alive and alone than dead as a doornail.

Wow! I thought I was weird because I love living alone. Glad to know I'm not "alone" in my thinking.

When I was growing up, being a "loner"was suspect. So I used to feel guilty for craving solitude. Now it turns out lots of nice people are loners.

Ninety-two now - living alone - and loving it.

I have a great marriage. We love each others company. I kind of feel like we are the lucky ones. We were both married and divorced before we met each other. Michael still works and I am home on my own all day. I never lack for something to do. I think of Michael and me as introverts. I know I would be devastated if Michael passed away but it would never make me want a roommate. Or even date someone. I can't see that at all. I think of myself as an independent woman. I think of my husband that way as well.


Looks like more womenover 85 live by themselves and I had all of you and Dad till 2 years ago, so I am about usual for my age 46% is the most usual way for us. 85 and older I have a lovely home and car in my garage; food on the table ; and do whatever I can to keep happy

Iris Kaplan
my Mom.

I would love to live separately from my husband like Tarzana, but I think he would be offended if I suggested it. But a strong part of me longs for independence.

He still works part time and I love my alone time. I fear that when he stops entirely, I'll be quite unhappy. Maybe I'll get a part time job to get away from all that togetherness.

We are 61 (me) and 69, so I presume there will be time to work these issues out.

Picture 1 and 3 are me.
I walk 5 miles a day in 2 different intervals.
There are times when I am depressed and extremely lonely for weeks.
I make attempts to find volunteer work or social gatherings but do not have transportation to these activities. I have just enough income for a studio apartment and food. I buy clothes at the thrift store from the dollar rack. This is life. Accept it or die. Most of the time I pray for the latter. It was fun to read so many people enjoying being alone.

At this point in my life I would find it very difficult (okay, impossible) to live with someone else.
Conversely, I would find it even more difficult (perhaps even dangerous) to live in isolation.
Each man may be an island, but we still need to hop in that rowboat and go to the mainland once and a while.

I just lost my husband of 36 years this week. I keep looking ahead and seeing emptiness in the future. Therefore, this post was very interesting to me. I have always been somewhat introverted, and having him not there scared me.

These posts helped and show me that as I grieve and move towards the future, I can adjust and enjoy my independence. I won't forget my husband, but will cherish what we had. I know he would be proud of me being an independent person. It's not as scarey as I thought it could be.

This post came at a good time for me and I probably go back and reread it and the comments again. Thank you!

I've found many of these comments very moving, especially Susan's. Living solo has been a great experience for me after 16 (SIXTEEN!) years of particularly lonely marriage. I have many friends but at the end of the day it is such a relief to be in my own surroundings with no need to anything other than have a glass of wine and cook something that I want to eat without having someone else telling me that a glass of wine is one too many and that what I'm cooking is not appealing. In the end we will all be on our own (unless we have a suicide pact with a partner) and so I think that it's a good idea to be self-sufficient whilst also still appreciating the company of friends.

I just visited my first assisted living facility a week ago Thursday and my second one just day before yesterday. Contemplating such is a huge change in lifestyle for someone like me who has lived alone some 35 years but health conditions and just plain old common sense at times have to rule the day.

Certainly I can stay in my own home which is paid for and given that I do have some serious health issues, I can just let my loved ones worry that next time they drop by they don't find me dead, stinking up the living room. And I am going to be putting my finances to a real test but sometimes checking into a facility just comes with the territory.

I have decided it's time to bite the bullet, check into an assisted living facility where I'll be watched over continuously and give my family that sense of security that they need that I am being well looked after and cared for. And it will also provide me with a safety net given my health issues with seemingly a new one popping up every fifteen minutes.

I've always been one of these macho big talkers about how I will live out my end days in blazing glory but I think we all know death is imminent and we have to be as prepared to make sacrifices for our loved ones as they are willing to do the same for us...

At 87 my mom was independent, lived in her own house, had a varied social life, drove everywhere and seemed to be in control of her life. By 89 she was having issues, passed out at the mall and the doctor took away her license. She depended upon the family to take help keep up her life but it was difficult and her friends began to drift away because of age related issues of their own. She went into independent living for 3 years being surrounded by people and opportunities to socialize. By 94 health issues became dramatic and at 95 she is now in a care unit. My family and I would prefer that she live in her own house but she is really unable to do that.

Everyone's journey is different but independence is not always the right solution.

I turn 70 this year and appreciate the comments and posts from people who are in different life situation.

I'm 68... live alone due to divorce.... kids are grown
Up until 7 years ago one kid still at home. Also leaving a 4 bdrm house added to the challenge. I lived with 2 short term roommates... which I liked... but they needed to free up the space I was in.... we got along very well. Then shared another house with a gal that turned out to be an alcoholic.... too much drama... So now I live solo in a great apt.
I have lots of interests and curiosities ... and I also like solitude. My ideal would be to live in community with my privacy in tact. I like the idea that there are others nearby to help each other.... but not when one person does a lot of the helping.

After 22 years of marriage, I spent a few years living with children (in a couple of different situations), then lived by myself for 16 years and enjoyed it very much. After retirement, I moved into the family farmhouse with one of my sisters. Even though this is the best arrangement for me right now, I miss living by myself. I enjoyed the ability to make my own decisions, do things when I wanted to and how I wanted to. My sister and I have some things in common (we both like neatness), but there are also differences. I have 5 children, all married, and 13 grandchildren, so traveling to their homes and being with them for a few days keeps me sane. The main thing is that I wouldn't mind at all living by myself if that should be what is the best situation for everyone.

I hate living alone (after divorce and children grown) with a passion. I have a lot of problems (not health related but financial and such) and am socially isolated - in a semi-rural area outside of a small town. I have grown anxious and severely depressed. I have no family or friends nearby. I don't value alone time, or doing things my own way etc. etc. I never had too much trouble carving out "alone time" while in various living situations. I am a big reader, I write, cook, knit, go online but being alone is boring.I truly don't know why being alone is so highly valued by others. If I had the money I would gladly become part of a larger retirement community. I still have to work but afterwards I might also volunteer with Peace Corps. I would rather go to another culture where elders are valued. I was in Peace Corps when I was young and always said I would sign up again as an elder. I have no desire to retire...ever.

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