According to the New York Times, 200 million adults worldwide are living alone. This represents an increase of 33 percent from 1996 to 2006. In addition, many more women over 60 are living alone than previous generations, whether it’s by personal choice or due to divorce or the death of a spouse.
It is true that there are many advantages to living alone. For example you have a greater sense of independence and the ability to design your daily life around your special interests. But one challenge of living by yourself is that maintaining social connections and a sense of closeness with other people often becomes more difficult. Human beings are social animals, and we still need to keep up those social bonds with the important people in our lives.
Here are a few ideas for how women over 60 can stay connected, even while living alone.
Everyone needs something to look forward to. All of us lead busy lives and so do our family and friends. So it’s best to get dates in each other’s calendars in advance of other obligations getting reserved. This article from Wired discusses some of the best calendar and scheduling apps that you can use on your smartphone. You can also use Facebook to create social events that you can invite friends to join.
Social connections are important to maintaining good health as we get older. For example, studies have shown that people who attend church or other religious services often live longer than people who do not. Regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, I hope that we can all agree that it’s healthy to have regular social connections and a sense of community.
Relationships are important, whether they come from a church or religious organization, or some other regular club or social activity.
One of the great strengths of women over 60 is that we are eager to share our skills, talents and experiences by giving back to the community through volunteer work. Volunteering is an ideal way to stay connected to old friends (by joining together in volunteer opportunities) or to make new friends or deepen your relationship with a charitable organization that you love.
One of the most amazing things about being alive today is the number of technologies available to stay connected with the people we love, even if they live far away. Have you ever used Skype to talk with your children or other family and friends? It’s free to talk with other people via your computer webcam.
Apple iPhone provides a free service called Facetime and Facebook and Gmail also offer free video messaging services that allow you to talk with anyone who uses those same services. It’s not the same as being in the same room, but it’s the next best thing!
If your family is far-flung – living in different regions of the country, multiple countries or even on different continents, one of the best ways to stay connected is to plan a destination gathering where everyone can travel to join each other, perhaps for a week at a vacation rental cabin, or perhaps for a long weekend at someone’s home.
Making the weekend a “destination event” will make it more likely for people to attend, and makes it easier for everyone to see each other without having to plan multiple separate trips. Check out Airbnb.com for affordable vacation rentals – you can use this site to rent space in someone’s home (or stay at someone’s apartment while they are out of town) for less than you would pay for a hotel.
Technology is wonderful, but sometimes the best way to connect with other people is through an old-fashioned means of communication – the handwritten letter. Sending a handwritten letter to someone you love is one of the best ways to express your feelings and even to leave a legacy. As Anna Quindlen wrote: “Words on paper confer a kind of immortality”. Wouldn’t all of us love to have a journal, a memoir, a letter, from those we have loved and lost? Shouldn’t all of us leave a bit of that behind?”
Even with all of the business and distractions of modern life, even with more of us living alone, it’s still possible (and more important than ever) to stay connected to the ones we love most. By making an effort to keep getting together with the people who are important to us, we’ll never truly be lonely – or truly alone.
Are you living alone after 60? What tools or techniques do you use to stay connected to the people that you care about? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below.
Watch my interview with Suzanne Braun Levine for a discussion of the importance of friends for women over 50.