More older women are living alone than older men in the United States, whether as a result of divorce, widowhood or by choice. In fact, as of 2020, senior women were 50% more likely than men to live alone in the US, and approximately 1/3 of women 65+ lived alone compared to just 20% of elderly men.
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. 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. Apps, 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, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You can take the lead in hanging out with the people that truly make you happy, and you might even meet some new friends or acquaintances that make your life even more fulfilling. While making connections or new friends later in life can be hard, don’t let that deter you from trying. There are billions of people out there – find some that bring you joy and help you live your best life.
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.
The truth is that as we get older, we begin to understand ourselves better. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy getting to just take care of yourself for a change. After years of putting yourself second or third, this is the time to just do you. With that, you can find new hobbies and activities that you enjoy but never got the chance to try. You can take up a new sport or join a club that always seemed to be out of reach.
You can also take up opportunities to learn about yourself. You might find out that what you’ve done because of routine for many years isn’t really what you enjoy. Take some time to learn about yourself, try new foods, or travel to places you’ve always wanted to go. It’s the prime time to move forward without having to please anyone else or follow anyone else’s timeline – and that can be very freeing.
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.
- Do acts of kindness, like volunteering to take your neighbor’s dog out if they’re gone.
- Take a long bath, and relax.
- Take short, 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.