This week, it’ll be fifteen months since I drove across the country to live alone. I went from living in a fairly large house with a huge yard with two other people to living in an apartment with a patio by myself. In the middle of a pandemic.
And I am more content and (I believe) better off for doing so. I am not unaware of a study last year that said that seniors living alone had the lowest happiness score. I just don’t know very many people for whom that is true. It may well be that that particular study emcompasses a large number of people who are less mobile or less independent. But my experience is that among seniors with some semblance of independence, there is not just contentment at living alone but also happiness.
To be clear, the seniors I know who are happiest have very good friends or family, who live in some proximity to them. That 104 year old gal who lives upstairs? Her son drives her to Oklahoma so she can gamble once a week. But living near family is not the same as living with family.
I do not know that I would have enjoyed living alone all my life. And I would certainly prefer my husband was around. But I lived happily alone for a long period before I was married and I married later as opposed to right after college. I lived alone after my husband died for two years (again with the exception of college kids home for the summer and others dropping by), and I was, if not happy (since I was still heavily grieving), content.
I enjoyed living with my sister and with my son, and that was an enjoyable time as well. But in truth I was alone an awful lot of that time. Both other parties were working and/or going to school full time. And while we always managed well, the pandemic showed me that we probably would not have had a workable living arrangement with two retirees in the house. We love each other but our lifestyles are very different! I do need to admit here that my sister is struggling with no companionship now that I am gone and that is a guilt issue on some level for me. I’m hoping when she stops fully working that she heads my way, and finds her own little apartment or place).
But I am not lonely, and the advantages of living alone are at the front and center from my perspective right now. I am a “please God no background music or TV” kind of girl and enjoy silence most of the day. I can do dance aerobics in the living room without worrying about someone needing me to move to get to another space. I can rinse the dishes well and leave them in the sink and load the dishwasher once a day. Everything in the fridge is mine and I can drink out of the carton if I want. Or bottle.
Unless I am having company, my bathroom door is always wide open and the night light always on. I don’t have to have an intelligent conversation and a morning person doesn’t look at me askance if I don’t speak for two hours in the morning. The list is long.
Much of the above is meant to be humorous. But on a serious level, the only person I need to please, or even satisfy, is me. And I have all the control. From whether there is background music, to what is on the TV, to the temperature of the apartment, to whether I get dressed, to if there is a meal to be had. I control who I see and who I socialize with and who I have as company, if I do. My space is MY space. It’s exactly how I want it, or at least a work in progress to get it that way.
I have a social life at the level I choose, for the most part (I say for the most part because of the pandemic). And If I’m feeling hemmed in with no one to talk to, I call someone. Or I grab some knitting or a book or a journal and hit a local coffeehouse with comfy chairs. Where I can both write and chat with whoever else is around. I have both spiritual and emotional support through friends, family and church and don’t need someone living with me to give me that.
I am rarely bored at home, but if I am, then I plan an outing, go for a drive or a walk, or even yell out on FB and ask where I should go for lunch and who wants to meet me.
There are downsides to living alone, especially as I get older, for sure. Alexa doesn’t call 911, so I’ve considered getting a wearable device that does (that is not an apple watch because everything I own is a PC or android). At the height of the pandemic when all I could do was wave even to my neighbors, things were rough. But they were rough for the married folks who live here as well.
I said earlier that I get to decide, but I also am the one who always has to decide. Were I still living in a house, I would be more concerned about safety (especially as a woman) than living alone. Also if I lived in a larger home, I would be doing all the work and cleaning on my own. In a downsized apartment, this is less of a concern. And of course as a single person, I rely on only my income as opposed to sharing with a spouse or a roommate.
But the bottom line is that I enjoy my own company. I have more than enough interests in and out of the house to keep me busy. I have a social life and access to family when I want and need that. Because I’ve rightsized my living space, I can do everything I need to do for myself at home. And I can keep myself mentally challenged an aware online, taking senior college classes, or just challenging myself in various ways/
It’s what works for me now.
I’ve decided to plan a long trip in June or July. Probably Amtrak, but maybe a road trip along the gulf coast. Whatever the logistics are, I will make them work.
Oh. And at home kits by mail just went live for those of us in the US and I ordered mine today.
While I do spend a lot of my time on my own, and like you, am rarely bored with my own company, my son does still live with me. But other than a short period of time each day we spend our time in separate areas of the house. I appreciate being solo for many of the same reasons as you've mentioned. Now if I could just find a house fairy to do the cleaning and cooking for me, I might rethink that perspective. :)ReplyDelete
What a nice post, Barb, and something to give so many of us food for thought. My MIL seems like a content person. I know she too misses my FIL, but I can't imagine her being bored-outside of the Covid stress as well.ReplyDelete
Yea. That's a whole other layer.Delete
Barb we must of had been "cut from the same cloth". I realize it's not everyone's cup of tea but I'm perfectly content living alone. I love having the luxury to do what I want, when I want, and most importantly IF I want.ReplyDelete
Agree..especially with the IFDelete
It is wonderful you are content with yourself. I think living like you do now I less isolating than living alone is a house. You can choose your level of contact with others living close to you instead of being isolated in a house.ReplyDelete
Mom was fine until she quit driving and even though I could take her anywhere she wanted to go, she still felt a little more isolated than she did when she could take off at a moments notice.
I can see how stopping the driving would be difficult. I hope to be able to use our senior bus and senior version of lyft.Delete
I would hate living with another person at this stage of my life. I'm content with my life now. I can pick and choose when and where I socialize or if I do it at all.ReplyDelete
You did well, Barb, with your move and here's to another good year to thrive where you're at.
I am retired and love living alone. I also appreciate the silence- something so many people do not understand.ReplyDelete
Yes. Most of my family prefer the musicor TV thing and that is usually not me.Delete
I'm close to your age and have lived alone for several years. Between selling one home and buying another, I tried renting a condo. It felt surprisingly temporary. I needed the yard and space to feel permanent. As I age, there is that dread of hanging up the car keys, but until then I am content living alone. Thank you for sharing the advantages.ReplyDelete
Interesting that the house feels more permanent. Thanks for stopping by. The car keys I expect to keep for quite awhile.Delete
I would love to live alone. I don't like interruptions with what I'm doing.ReplyDelete
There can be advantages to living with others but yes. When I'm involved in something I want to stay that way.Delete
Ditto, ditto, ditto. And you can choose not to wear pants! Congrats for getting through your transition. I can't wait to retire. Linda in KansasReplyDelete
I always wear pants but stay in my nightgown and lounger more than I should admit. Especially during g covid.Delete
I too live alone and feel much as you. I do resent Covid a bit for I am a social person and enjoyed the occasional luncheons with friends but there are always phones and thank goodness for the computer.ReplyDelete
Oh I resent Covid more than a bit. Sigh.Delete
Unfortunately the study on seniors living alone probably did not differentiate between younger and older seniors, type of living situations and locations, those who are mobile, etc. I think many "younger" seniors would agree with you. Since I haven't lived alone for any extended period of time its hard for me to know how I would respond to it. I do know as my Mom lost her ability to drive and living in a rural area that experienced winters she became very socially isolated.ReplyDelete
I agree that rural living and being snowed in would affect so many things.Delete
Unlike you, I do NOT enjoy my own company, at least not for very long periods of time. I have never lived alone. And would never want to. But I do have several friends and relatives who live alone, and they are perfectly happy. It all depends on who you are. Btw, good post!ReplyDelete
I quite enjoy my own company. Give me my hobbies, a good book and a telephone to contact the boys and I am happy. I do have Harvey here which keeps me on my toes.ReplyDelete
We do not live in each others pockets though. Each of us has our own space and we both make use of it and the shared space when ever we need to.
I love having my husband around but there are definitely times when I miss living alone. After over 30 years alone, I was happy not to be. I know exactly what you mean about making decisions. While it’s nice to have control, sometimes you just want someone else to decide. If I’m ever faced with living alone again, I know I’ll be fine.ReplyDelete
I don't know how I would feel if I were alone 30 years.and I dint know hiw I'll feel after living alone another five. Life us an experiment for sure!Delete
I'm 63 and have been divorced 10 years, and while I've had a couple of relationships since my divorce, there is no way I will ever live with anyone again. I LOVE the freedom that living alone brings (or maybe I'm just anti-social)!ReplyDelete