Living Alone In Retirement-Are Women More Content?

As the world becomes more and more competitive, it seems that more and more people are choosing to live alone in retirement. Is this a good thing? And is it better for women than men? In this article, we explore these questions from a variety of angles. We look at the pros and cons of living alone in retirement, and discuss whether or not women are more content than men when living alone. We also provide some tips for women who are thinking about retiring alone. Finally, we finish the article with a section on how to make the most of retirement by living alone.

 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.

Living Alone In Retirement

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.

Living Alone In Retirement

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!

Now that you are done reading, do you think being living alone in retirement is easier for women or men? It all depends on your circumstances. If you are a happy person and love keeping busy with new hobbies and activities, it can be a good choice for you. However, if loneliness strikes, there are support systems that can help you deal with this situation too.

But most importantly, make sure to keep yourself mentally fit so that the feelings of depression don’t take hold!

Frequently Asked Questions

What single women do in retirement?

Make a retirement strategy. It’s critical to have a financial strategy for your golden years.
Know Your Expenses and Debt. You’ll depend on a fixed income during retirement.
Keep away from taking Social Security as long as you can.
Make your health a priority and learn about investing.

Do men and women perceive their retirements differently?

Additionally, males were more likely than women in the survey (77% vs. 69%) to indicate that they considered the transition to retirement to be “simple”. This is consistent with a 2015 MassMutual survey in which 65% of women and 70% of retired males reported feeling “very” or “quite a bit” at ease.

What is most important to retirees?

According to a Merrill Lynch/Age Wave report (opens in new tab), the majority of retirees believe that having excellent health is the key to a happy retirement.

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