Living solo is more common than most of us want to admit.
Over 25 percent of people over the age of 65 live alone in the United States and the statistic grows throughout the world. And in some U.S cities, the numbers swell to over 40 percent.
However, living solo doesn’t necessarily equate to having no family members, a partner or adult children. Simply put, it means we’re alone most of the time. For many single individuals, we celebrate the holidays and special events on our own.
In my elder orphan Facebook group, concern over loneliness during special events and occasions is often mentioned leading up to Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Yom Kippur, Yalda and Christmas. It seems most members face the dilemma of having no one with whom to share the day for the happiest and most important times.
Up for discussion are topics like not having someone to decorate with and cooking for one, or attending a faith-based event alone. Others raise issues like lack of transportation, joining in the festivities or feeling lonely and knowing others are with loved ones. Others share about giving to others.
While being alone feels like a burden to some, to others, it’s an enjoyment and a time to relish. I fall in between because I’ve learned to accept being alone, however, I have days – especially on my birthday, at Christmas and Thanksgiving – that I regret not having a family of my own.
How I handle my alone time during such times is to call a good friend or visit one. Being in the mix of company like my faith based community also alleviates the regret and sorrow.
Since I’m aging alone, it forces me to have an altered perspective from the one that society believes we should have. So, I’ve learned to accept solitude as my friend, not something to run away from.
That’s my take, but for others, solitude differs and rarely feels like a blessing or welcomed space. However, since my work dwells in the aging industry, I have the privilege to connect and tune in to the trained advice of professionals.
If you have trouble accepting the circumstances of being single or alone during special occasions, the Seniorcare.com Aging Council proposes suggestions and plans to help alleviate loneliness:
Harsh Wanigaratne with Speedsta, points to a study by Professor Michael Granof at the University of Austin which showed the 2010 median income of women 65+ is $15,000 and men 65+ is $25,000. Wanigaratne believes having a strategy where distanced family members or friends can “crowdfund” and contribute to their loved one’s activities, transportation or other events is a wonderful way for older adults to stretch their income and enjoy holiday events.
You can connect with non-profits because they often have a big need for volunteers to assist in holiday projects like toy collections, food banks, and food kitchens. Another possibility, invite neighbors to create a friendly gathering.
Admond Fong with SeniorProviders.com believes technology bridges the gap of feeling alone. Use Skype or FaceTime to connect with other individuals spending the day without companionship. Remain connected to the local community – reach out to a hospice organization or the Area Agency on aging to find out who needs a friend that day.
Kaye Swain with SandwichINK.com, recommends writing cards and letters and sending to young children or elderly folks who have no family. It’s a nice gesture if you enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope and paper for them to write you back. Some of the closest and long-lasting relationship develop during this time of year. Offer a friend or neighbor to take care of their housebroken pet, which can keep you company.
Kathy Birkett with SeniorCareCorner.com, suggests using FaceTime or Skype as a tool for virtual tours to share and show your home’s holiday decor! Grandkids living at a distance enjoy the connection and seeing a grandparent’s tree lights and decorations.
About 25 percent of family caregivers are caring from long distance, facing a unique set of challenges. Those that are far away from their parents or other older family members should make sure they stay connected during the holiday season, whether through a phone conversation, email or video conference.
If you are spending the holidays alone, how do you handle your “alone time?” Do you have any plans for the holidays that help you feel connected and less lonely? Please share with other solo women in our community.