Many of us find ourselves living alone as we get older, whether through death, divorce or a lifelong commitment to singleness. Many of us embrace this independence, while others are not as comfortable with it.
Regardless of how we may feel about being in our 60s and solo, we are each responsible for creating the best possible future for ourselves.
We are never too old to have goals. Goals give us something to work toward, and they help create a game plan to get us there. Goals give life direction and purpose.
They get us out of bed in the morning and out into the world. They prepare us for the future while encouraging us to live in the moment. They keep us active, engaged and motivated. In many ways, goals give us life.
Planning for the future requires a much longer view than it used to. Retirement is no longer the ultimate destination. As women, we are likely to live into our 90s, which is a good 25 years beyond traditional retirement age.
Those of us who retire in our 60s will probably have at least two decades of living to plan for. We can still make our lives what we want and need them to be – and we should. We are never too old to pursue our dreams.
For more than a decade, I have sat down each January to write goals for the year ahead. I begin by looking at my goals from the prior year, noting what I did or didn’t accomplish and what may not matter anymore.
No goal should ever be engraved in stone. They can – and should – evolve, just as we do. What is important this month or this year may not seem so critical a year from now.
Life happens. Our goals may need to be adjusted to fit a change in circumstances or to take advantage of a new opportunity. Knowing when to let go of a goal or add a new one is as important as being able to check individual goals off our lists.
My goal-setting process includes these categories:
These are areas of our lives which can benefit from some extra attention and effort:
It is easier to enjoy life when we are healthy. Being active, going to fitness classes, participating in favorite activities and eating smarter are all ways that we can plan for a healthy future.
Cultivating strong friendships is even more important as we get older. Friends provide us with a sense of community and a support system. This is important whether we are single or married. Women tend to thrive when in the company of other supportive women.
Reading books, taking classes and learning new skills keeps us growing as individuals. Developing new interests helps us meet people, make new friends and enhance our quality of life. Learning a new sport or trying a new fitness class can help us finally find a fun way to stay active and healthy.
It is never too late to get smart about money. This means spending responsibly, saving regularly and investing wisely. It’s not always easy, but retirement is when it becomes most important.
Women who are solo as they grow older are more focused on what they need and want in life. We can try new things, explore new interests and make friends more easily when our time is our own to plan for.
Solo women also tend to be more active. We are more likely to join a social club, go to fitness classes with friends or try a new group activity like walking or hiking.
We also have more time for family and friends. This can allow us to reconnect with old friends or get out more and expand our circles. Many women find that it is easier to make friends as we get older. Why? Because so many of us have friendship as a common goal.
Solo individuals may even be more creative, opening the door to more ‘color of living’ type goals. A 2011 Harvard study linked spending time alone to an increase in creative thinking. This could generate ideas for interesting new projects or activities.
The same study indicated that a certain amount of solitude can make people more empathetic toward others. This could be why many of us find ourselves more interested in philanthropic work as we get older.
I wrote my book Retiring Solo as I began to think, in earnest, of what retirement as a single woman might look like – not just financially, but also holistically: heart, body and soul. I wanted to have a plan in place to approach retirement, ready to make the most of the decades to come.
I will turn 60 in just a few short months. I see the coming decade as a time of challenges (an aging body and mind) and potential threats (finances, health), but also opportunities (travel, writing, living healthy).
I consider myself to be a work in progress. I plan to continue my goal-setting sessions until my mind no longer has the power to do so. I’m a gal with a never-ending to do list, and this one, finally, is all about me.
What goals have moved to the top of your list as you’ve grown older? Which goals have fallen off your list over the years? Is it harder or easier to set goals when you are on your own? Do you talk about your goals with your friends or keep them to yourself? Please share your wisdom in the comments below.