” I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.” Albert Einstein
In this series of articles we look at love, relationships and different ways that older people choose to live. Stop for a moment and think about the people over 60 that you know. How many live with a spouse or partner? How many over 60’s live alone? What other living arrangements are people creating in their later years?
In researching material for this article I found reports of global trends for solo living from the United Nations. There’s a huge study completed by the Australian Institute of Family Studies..volumes of statistics, graphs and appendices. And then I looked out of my window.
As I sit at my living room table writing this article I look outside at the quiet valley in which I live. Next door and across the road are women 50 plus who live alone in their houses. One woman has recently had her adult son and his girlfriend return to live at home. They are saving for overseas travel. Then there’s the mid 40’s man who lives with his 2 teenage children. A married heterosexual couple in their 80’s live further down in the valley. On the hill are a married gay couple and up the street a transgender woman in her 70’s who lives solo.. There are 2 friends who, in their 60’s have built a house together as co-owners with separate bedrooms and bathrooms. In this little valley people have chosen to live in a variety of ways in their older years and the diversity of those choices is all around us. In real life they demonstrate what the reams of research have proved. The ways older people live are increasingly varied.
But there are other trends we can pull from the research
- In Australia, of the over 60’s who do live alone 57% of men will form a new relationship and go on to live in a partnership while only 17% of older women will form a new live in relationship
- Overall only 1/4 of those Aussies over 60 who live alone would prefer to be in a live in relationship. 3/4 like living alone
- After the age of 65, men can expect to live another 20 years in Australia and women can expect to live another 22 years
So there are a lot of people out there who are over 60 and live alone. This week I talked with friends in various settings about why they live alone and what the solo experience is like at 60 plus. I’ve spoken to about 20 people this week and here’s some of the conversation about living solo. Some were divorced many years ago, some widowed, others never married and yet others are in a committed relationship but don’t live together.
What do you enjoy about living solo?
” At this time of my life I enjoy the freedom to make my own decisions and live how I want. My years of having to look after others is over. It’s my time.”
” I love having the control over my finances and the priorities in my life. I don’t have to negotiate every single detail any more. Life is simple and easy. I can do what I like. The buck stops here.”
” Most of the time I love being free and independent. I enjoy the privacy and the quiet. Sometimes I get lonely but I was more lonely in my marriage and that hurt more.”
” I enjoy waking up to the home I have created to meet my needs as an older woman. I love having things organised. I don’t have to tell someone where I’m going or what time I’ll be back. There’s no judgement, explanation, negotiation. I’ve earned this time in my life to concentrate on myself and do what I want to do.”
” I like setting up my own habits. Like Friday night is Netflix, wine and take away food..no guilt. I spend time with friends camping at Easter and hiking. On rainy days I curl up with the dog and watch really bad old movies. I cook when I’m hungry. I’m more available and interested in others and now i’m retired I volunteer and tend my garden. I feel really proud of what I’ve created.”
What don”t you like about living solo?
” I have to rely on friends or pay for every repair in the house. I hate putting the bins out all the time. It’s all on me to keep everything running smoothly. Sometimes I just want a hire a husband.”
” I miss her cooking and her laugh. My wife died 5 years ago and I miss her every day. It’s just not the same. I keep busy during the day but the nights are bad. So are public holidays when everyone’s out doing something with their spouse.”
” I miss having someone have my back. Knowing that if I get sick it’s just me alone in this house. I fear getting frail and not knowing who’ll care for me. I miss hugs and kisses and sex. I missed being touched.”
” It’s more expensive living alone than in a couple. I have to watch what I spend money on. The pension doesn’t go far.”
I think this comment really sums up what living solo in older age is all about ……..
” 98% of the time i love living by myself in my own home with family not far away and a good group of friends around me. I have lots of interests and make the effort to see people. When I come home I love the quiet, independence and the freedom to do what I like. I do get lonely, especially at Christmas when its such a family time. I hate that some people still want to fix me up with someone. Couples rule! I know they’re being kind but I really am Ok and not looking for a relationship. At this age I like myself and feel complete. I try not to think about ill- health and what will happen when I get older. I live for now and make every day count. I don’t want to change anything about the way I live. I think its how you think about life and getting older that matters. where and how you live is not so important.”