Midlife women are doing it again. As we did in our 20s, we are questioning fundamentals, challenging the status quo, being stubbornly bohemian and embracing the unconventional. Boomers are tenaciously breaking down stereotypes about aging and redefining life after 60. However, this raises an important question. Now that we are living longer, healthier and more independent lives, where and how are we all going to live? Thanks to new communications technologies, generally better health and a multitude of transportation options, more women over 60 than ever are abandoning cities and deciding to live alone.
More Women Over 60 than Ever Are Living Alone... and Loving it!
Whether by choice or chance, the number of older women living alone is increasing. In fact, according to the Administration on Aging, 37% of women in the U.S. over 65 live by themselves. More importantly, the majority of these women are happy living alone and wouldn't want to live any other way. I recently asked the 35,000 members of my Sixty and Me community if they would prefer to live alone, with others, or in a managed community. 95% of the women who responded said that they would prefer to live alone. Their comments were also interesting and emphatically support the argument that many older women want to simplify, live in a smaller space, stay independent and connect with family and friends through technology.
Nor does living alone after 60 condemn a person to a life of solitude. Eric Klinenbert, author of "Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone" has conducted research that shows that people living alone are statistically more likely to reach out, socialize and build strong social networks than their peers who are married. According to Eric "Clearly, contrary to popular belief, for more of us, living alone is a choice, not a sentence."
Single Boomer Women are Also Turning Their Backs on Urban Living
Cities are growing fast. Today, 50% of people in the world live in cities and by 2050 it is predicted that 70% of the world's population will be urban dwellers. It is fairly obvious why young people move to cities. They relocate to find work, romance, education, entertainment, and opportunity! As we age, our priorities shift and city life starts to look less desirable. Life outside the city is often cheaper, less chaotic and healthier. In addition, modern communication and transportation technologies allow us to stay connected with the people we care about, without having to live right next door.
Is it Time for a New Kind of Retirement Community?
Given the fact that so many women over 60 are embracing solo living and enjoying their independence and freedom, perhaps it is time for a new kind of retirement community. Perhaps it's time for development companies to start building small, hip villages with small individual apartments and communal areas, great connectivity, convenient transportation and necessary services. The future is looking great for boomer women, who are at the forefront of a creative explosion of independent solo living!
What do you think? Are you are a big city, small town or country person? If you are over 60, do you prefer living alone? Please add your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation in the Sixty and Me forum for women over 60.
What you want is someone to hang with near where you live. Approach this scientifically. Having a friend who lives an hour's drive away will mean you won't see them as much as the person who lives closer. So think global, but stay local. That means your local coffee shop, the local branch of the public library, they local chapter of the Sierra Club, or the local college that offers evening courses.
If you play tennis, join a club or take a few lessons at the community center. If you like to throw parties, volunteer to run the annual fund-raiser at your synagogue or church; when the board thanks you publicly at the dinner, everyone will learn your name. If you hike, join the Sierra Club. If you bicycle, join a biking group or enter a race in your age category. Here's the one caveat about following your interests: Nobody ever met anyone while watching "American Idol" from the couch.
Be open to the idea that it's OK to have friends who are older or younger. The fact that they are in different stages in life just means they bring a different perspective to the table. While a 14-year-old won't be interested in socializing with a toddler, that 10-year age gap dissipates when they get older. Why not say yes to the 30-somethings who invite you to join them for drinks after work? Invite them over for dinner with their families and get to know their kids. Their views on the world may not match yours precisely, but variety is the spice of life.
If you are post 50 and uncoupled, you might find that traveling isn't as much fun. Call it the Noah's Ark theory, but in general, we like to go places paired up. There are services that will help you find a travel room-mate. Not only does this give you someone to talk to over dinner, it cuts down those single supplements that some tours and cruises charge. Friendly Planet runs one such pairing-up service. Road Scholar offers many active adult adventure vacations here -- offers to find you a roommate if you want. Their programs and generally educationally based and draw a well-heeled and educated crowd. Cruise ships do a pretty good job of making sure solo travelers find people to hang out with; group dining arrangements go a long way toward conversational icebreaking.
Even if you've never been a joiner, now may be the time to get yourself out there. Got a new puppy or an old dog who needs some new tricks? Find a community dog-training class. If you like to cook, take a cooking class. Participate in the 5K run for charity, even if you walk the final three.
Keep your smart phone with you and ask for numbers. Sure it may feel a little awkward to say to someone you just met "Hey, I really enjoyed talking to you on this Sierra Club hike but the next one isn't for two months. Would you like to get together for a hike before that?" Worst they can say is no.
With Skype and apps like FaceTime, it's easier than ever to have face-to-face visits. Don't assume your old friends are too busy to talk to you on the phone. Most cellphone plans include free long-distance calls and for those that don't, there's Skype. Invite friends who live a great distance to come and stay with you. Show them your city. Friendships are like gardens; it's often easier to tend to an existing one than grow a new one from seeds.
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