Saturday, June 21, 2014

Living Alone In Retirement-Are Women More Content?

 Recently I've had some requests to talk about about single retirement, especially issues on living alone in retirement such as safety for women.  I've been wanting to talk more about women in retirement and single retirement within my "living richly" purview.  However, I already had this related post in the hopper after a discussion.  Enjoy, and feel free to comment.

Although I am single in retirement, I no longer "live alone".  Even so, I lived alone for almost seven years, with my "alone-ness" broken up by summer visits from college students. Although I enjoy my house sharing situation and it has worked well for me, I was not unhappy living alone-in any way.  What's more, if I expect that somewhere down the road, in five or so years, I will be in the same place if you will-single and living alone.  I look forward to that time.

I thrived while I was living alone, and I expect that I will do so again.  What's more, it seems that I am not alone. As a group, women who live alone in retirement are happy, content and satisfied.  More so, it would seem than men in the same situation.

Certainly singles, single women especially can have some disadvantages in retirement. Many of those disadvantages are on the financial front.  Men still make more than women, on average, and as such even men who have remained single will often have more financial resources than women in the same boat.  Some single retirees will arrive in that place by death or divorce, which have their own adjustment issues.

Money, however, does not in and of itself make a retirement life, and when it comes to lifestyle women adjust better to living alone and than men, at this time of life.  For awhile now, I have wanted to read Going Solo, the Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, written by sociologist Erik Klinenberg. This book is filled with both statistical and anecdotal information about singles at all states of life.  Interestingly, approximately 28 percent of Americans live alone (a larger percentage than any other family unit).  

One surprising (to some folks) result of this research is that women seem to be better suited to living alone than men, especially after "a certain age". Not because we are more into solitude, or because we are more self-sufficient or used to being "at home"  On the contrary.  Women succeed because we have stronger social networks, meaning we can "live alone without being alone".  Men, according to Klinenberg, are more likely to withdraw in social and other ways. 

While this is just one view, it reflects my experience. The nature of being single, and living alone has changed. In today's environment, one can have a social life, a romantic life, and live alone.  We can go out and visit, walk to stores or galleries, drive down the road to a book club or library meeting, while still enjoying living alone. We can Skype or Facebook family members and friends who may live across the country or the world. Living alone no longer means isolation, or "being alone:.

Whether it's nature or nurture, it's the women and the wives who have been the keepers and maintainers of family contacts, maintained the family friendships, carried on "relationships".  We are the folks who generally keep in contact with the kids, visit with the neighbors over the fence and more.  We are more likely (if we were married) to have had true friendships or social relationships outside of our marriage.  Divorced and widowed men most likely worked long hours, came home and spent time with the wife and kids primarily to the exclusion of everything else.

These are generalities, and of course there are exceptions and lots of them. What's more, the world is changing rapidly, and what is true now may not be true for my 35 year old child.  Still, the evidence is there.  During the 1995 heatwave in Chicago (just as an example) single women retirees outnumbered men by almost two to one.  Almost all of those elderly who died were men-because they had no friends to check on them

What are the lessons here?  As a happy single retiree who is an expert on almost nothing, I have no idea.  It does, however occur to me that we would all be happier with trusted friends and confidants outside of marriage. I think it also supports the argument that spouses should not only rely on each other or their children for emotional sustenance.

Again, I am not an expert.  I'm a widow who has certainly experienced long term grief (six years later I'm about to attend a grief support group again) and some financial setbacks who still is loving my single retirement and all it gives me. They say when a door closes another opens. Living alone simply allows me to meet more friends, and have more activities.  The fact that it allows me to stay up till two am without worrying about disturbing anyone, or eat popcorn for dinner (I don't but I could) is simply an extra.

What about you?  Are you single and retired?  Looking ahead to retirement? Do you know single retirees?  Are they happy?  Do you feel sorry for them? Do you still see "coupling" as the best way to live? Feel free to share!


  1. I read "Going Solo" a while ago -- see -- and totally agree (based on my experience) that women do better than men ... which is one of the many reason why I live with my dearly beloved B!

  2. My sister has been alone since 2006, as has my mother. Both women seem much happier alone. They both have plenty of money for the long haul. That certainly helps. I doubt that I would remarry if my husband passed away. There are so many more options for singles today. Nice to hear your POV.

  3. I am happily single for 23 years. Becoming single initially was not by choice. My spouse decided to end our marriage. And being single was hard initially. I had bought into the idea that marriage was what we all strived for. Now I realize how much I enjoy being single. There are very few married couples whom I observe and wish I had what they had. It's been easier to seek company living alone than it ever was to find solitude when I was married. Maybe it's selfish, but I like making decisions without debate. I go where I want, when I want and come home when I'm ready. There are more advantages than disadvantages in my opinion. I get to do what I want but I do have to do it all by myself. I have a solid circle of people who surround me with love and support me. Life is good.

  4. I've been divorced for less than 6 months after nearly 25 years of marriage. I was shocked at how much happier I am these days in so little time. I enjoy my solitude and the peace I feel most everyday. I never realized how much internal conflict I was shouldering that made me blind to all the beautiful people, places and things around me. More importantly, I never realized how much beauty I had to offer the world. I am a better mom to my 2 sons, daughter, sister, and friend. I don't regret getting married but I am not sorry that I am divorced. The sky is a beautiful blue and the world is a big and inviting place to explore.


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