Dealing with living alone

July 31, 2015 Providence Health Team

Living alone for older adults can be lonely and isolating.  Learn tips for staying active and connected to family, friends and community.

Living alone has become a trendy option among young Americans. And, according to some social researchers, these solo dwellers have richer social lives than other adults.

Living alone also is becoming increasingly common among older adults. But for them, the living arrangement can be isolating and lonely.

Today, about 30 percent of men and women 65 and older and more than half of women 75 and older live alone. A good number of these seniors have recently lost a spouse or lifetime partner and may still be grieving. Others have been single parents for many years and have seen their children leave home, move away and start families of their own. Most of these older adults are retired, without a place to go every day and interact with others.

Younger adults are connected in many ways – through text messages, email, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Not all older folks have stayed current with this communication revolution. But even those who have should be careful not to use cyber communication as a substitute for real-life social contacts. In later life, it’s too easy to remain at home behind the computer rather than staying involved with friends and activities in the community.

Stay active to stay connected

There are many ways to stay active and even expand your social circle if you live alone. Consider taking a yoga class to stay in good health and meet people. Try volunteering with your favorite organization. Go out once a week for dinner and conversation with friends. You might want to join a book club.

Make mealtimes special

Regardless of your age, fixing a meal for one can seem like a waste of time. Don’t let your thinking drift in that direction. Take the time to sit down at the table and eat regular meals. If you’re alone on your birthday or a holiday, fix yourself the traditional meal you always had with your family. You can relive some of those memories while you’re enjoying it.

Reach out to relatives

Try to keep ties with your family. They are your most important lifeline. Even if a child or sibling has said something that has hurt your feelings, you gain nothing by holding a grudge. If your children forget to call you on Mother’s Day, pick up the phone and call them.

When to seek help

Eventually, living alone can become a problem – even a risk – for people with chronic medical conditions or those who become frail. Don’t hesitate to talk with your primary care provider about any problems you’re having. Your medical provider is key to help you monitor your health. If you don’t have a primary care provider, Providence can help you find one who’s right for you.

Serious problems aren’t as common as you might think, however. About half of Americans ages 55 to 64 and a quarter 65 and older say they’re in good or excellent health. The majority of older Americans are capable of living alone successfully and happily for many years. 

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