Jul 12, 2013

What would living alone be like?

Back in early 2012 there was an article in the New York Times called One is the Quirkiest Number written by Steven Kurutz.  It caught my interest because I am approaching the age when one of us will be left to fend for ourselves. I think that every senior couple has this "number" on their mind.  I know the idea that my husband or I will have to face a life alone sooner or later does not make us happy.  I suppose that is why I read the article at the time (and several blog posts related to it) from beginning to end.  I wondered, "How would that be?" One of the singles featured in the article was Ronnie Bennett (age 70) over at Time Goes By.  This is what she had to say our chances of being alone: 
...in old age, we are more likely than young and mid-age people to be forced into single living after the kids are grown and/or a spouse dies.
Eccentric Behavior:
The New York Times article talked about the eccentricities singles living alone develop. While the solo life style allows singles the freedom to come and go without anyone questioning them, it also allows them to indulge in unusual behaviors. They can take a shower with their clothes on (The Accidental Tourist) and wander around naked eating bananas peel and all. When no one is watching they can do as they please. It does have it pitfalls too. When one woman went to work wearing a blouse and tights but forgot her skirt, a second pair of eyes at home and not a subway full of people would have been better. But, in most women's case, I think you will find that they feel living with a spouse/partner is no guarantee that those second pair of eyes will actually check to see if you are properly dressed! I know that I have gone out looking like a clown a number of times.

For the aging senior, a life of solitude can be the straw that breaks the camels back.  In my family the walls finally closed in leaving dementia in one case. I knew an older woman that was widow for many years. She began answering the front door naked. Her eccentric behavior actually did not hurt anyone but it was surely a sign that she needed some company. That kind of behavior leaves no doubt in the neighbor's mind that there is something very wrong.

I also think that ageism plays a big part in the perception of a senior's behavior. The quirky behaviors that young people exhibit when they live alone for an extended period of time can spill over into their daily lives without much damage. But when a senior exhibits the same behaviors, families and friends get worried. So, when older people do "quirky" things, it does not mean that they have lost their marbles.  Some actually choose to do most things because it works for them and not because of their age. Bennett is 70 years old and lives alone. In her post on the subject of leaving the toilet door open and a comment in the Time's article that she did it because of her age, she said:
"First, I do not “forget” to close the bathroom door. It's a choice; I don't see the point of closing it when I'm home alone. But always, in our culture, anything slightly out of the ordinary in old people is identified up as a failing. Shannon's assumption is that I leave the bathroom door open because I'm stupid, demented or at best, addled just because of my age. I'm so tired of this kind of stuff."
On Being Alone:
Most of us need some alone time. However in a lot of cases, facing day after day isolated from the world is not good. The perfect situation for us could be one where the single lives alone but close to others or in a community of people. On the other hand I know seniors that love their life alone and thrive in the life they have built for themselves. Each person is different. As the Times article points out, 1 in 4 people of all ages are living along now. Most of the people featured in the article were young and living in apartments. The exception was Ronnie Bennett. She was the woman I quoted above. As a senior I think we can learn from the these people. Keeping a network of others, not a spouse or partner, is very important. If we don't do that, we will have an empty tool box when the need to repair our life becomes a necessity.

Remembering that when our spouse is gone or we are left alone for other reasons, there are many choices. I don't think that you should be lonely in today society. Hopefully, when the time comes, WE can decide how to live what is left of our life.

So it is just a thought. What experiences have you had with living alone?

Blogs related to NYT's article:

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the overview of the article and links. This is something we just don't talk about much as we age. I have watched my Mom adjust to living alone for the first time in her life after my father's death. At 90, three years later, she has created a life for herself that works for her. We (her children) wish she would live in a more social environment but she doesn't!

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  2. Great review.

    I do quirky things already :>)

    I am thinking about apartments near several friends---town houses really. WE would love to live together like we did in college- be we would probably kill each other---lol.

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  3. Well Juhli, your mother is making choices based on what makes her comfortable. I do agree though...it is nice to be close to but not in someone else's home.

    Janette, actually friends do live even in the same home very much like college roommates. My winter park model RV resort is very much like being in college. I love the diversity and support my husband and I have here in the winter.

    We have moved to a senior community in Oregon. That neighborhood is close knit and we watch after each other.

    Be well

    b

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