Finding Balance

Living Alone Doesn’t Have to Mean Living Lonely

More older women are living alone than older men in the United States, whether as a result of divorce, widowhood, or by choice. This number has decreased, however, from 79% in 1990 to 69% in 2014, mostly due to an uptick in life expectancies and more unmarried women moving in with their children.

While there are drawbacks to living alone, such as financial strain and the need to make more effort socially, a positive finding from this data shows that older women who live alone are more likely than men to say they spend more time on their hobbies. Fully 65% of women who live alone say they spend more time on their hobbies and interests as they age, compared with 49% of men.

The independence, in the form of freedom to stock the fridge with what you want, wear what you want (even if that means wearing nothing), and manage your schedule around yourself provides a newfound flexibility we as women are not accustomed to. Our lives are spent scheduling doctors appointments and making sure the people we love get to them, losing sleep or sacrificing a shower to get the lunches ready, or get homework done. When circumstances call for living alone, there are those benefits.

It’s not easy, though. Here’s how you can both embrace and balance the challenges and perks of living alone.

Stay Connected with Others

In the past, staying in communication with relatives while living alone may have been more difficult. Today, we have advanced technology that is easy to use for all ages. Living AloneApps, video chats, texting–all avenues for us to stay in touch, while benefiting from an independent lifestyle, without having to move somewhere foreign just to be with family.

Living alone doesn’t have to mean that you’re lonely, but during this time, a person must really focus on nurturing friendships because it can get easier to simply become isolated. There has to be more effort involved.

Stay Connected with Yourself

Sometimes, living alone results from loss. While this is a time of grief and pain, it can also be a period of personal self-reflection. It’s a time to fully focus on oneself, and in this way, personal growth can accompany grief and loss.

Know Your Lonely Triggers & Fight Back with Fun

Everyone’s triggers for loneliness are different. For some, it may be a nostalgic commercial on TV or the smell of a certain meal. Try to recognize the moments you feel these pangs of loneliness, and then make yourself actively seek something positive to do or think about. Not everything costs money, and certain activities can be delightfully low-key, while still bringing you joy.

Some great ways to fight loneliness and keep your brain healthy and joyful are:

  • Join a book club or discussion group.
  • Bake for yourself.
  • Buy some plants to care for.
  • Think about owning a pet.
  • Take this time to reflect spiritually or religiously.
  • Volunteer.
  • Do acts of kindness, like volunteering to take your neighbor’s dog out if they’re gone.
  • Take a long bath, relax. 
  • Take small, slow walks in a safe public park that you’re familiar with.
  • Expect the best outcomes; it’s easy when you’re lonely to expect rejection. Focus positively.
  • If you’re dealing with strong feelings of loneliness, immediately schedule a call with a friend or family member. Send a text, and when you hear back, it’ll be a refreshing reconnection.

Again, living alone doesn’t have to be lonely, but when the feelings come, take care of yourself. Be with yourself.

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