How to Age Alone (Even if You Don’t Really Want to)

Being partnered may get the societal seal of approval, but it does not protect us from aging solo

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I’ve been forced to think about death lately — my own. First when I interviewed Katy Butler about her book earlier this year, and more recently when I interviewed BJ Miller on the book he co-wrote with Shoshana Berger, . Both books are more about living a good life in the time we have left (however long that might be) than about death and dying per se, and so they have made me think a little more urgently about the years ahead. How will I age alone, even though I don’t necessarily want to. But I’m single and I may be single from here on in — what is that going to look like?

I have feels.

I realize I need figure out how this aging alone as a single woman thing is going to work. As much as I’d love to have a grand romance before I die, I can’t count on that — I need to have a plan in place for aging alone.

And, to be honest, so do you.

Being partnered is no guarantee

Even if you’re partnered now, stuff happens. Your partner may suddenly become ill or incapacitated and need to be in a care facility. Or they could die. Not to be a downer but that happens — a lot. Being partnered may get the societal seal of approval, but it does not protect us from aging solo. In fact, of the nearly 13 million bereaved spouses in America today, .

Regardless of our relationship status, getting older has certain realities we’ll need to face.

Isolation is one of the biggest problems facing older people — people 60 and older who live alone spend about . That’s a lot! How are we going to keep ourselves connected? Thankfully, I have a village of lovelies — women I’ve known for decades.

Money is another issue. Divorced, widowed and never-married women — especially women of color and LGBT women — experience the (I know this all too well). In what ways can we either increase our income or reduce expenses? I have numerous side hustles just to survive, and yet …

And then there’s sex. Despite the myths about older women and our alleged nonexistent libido, many of us feel like we are in the , and we are not ready to give up sex, intimacy and touch. What can we do to get those needs met? (Trust me, I’m working on it!)

Preparing for solo living

These are not things I thought about in my 20s, 30s and 40s. That said, I look back now and think of friends who unexpectedly lost their spouses when they were young and supposedly had their whole life together ahead of them — or so they thought — only to have everything shift in unexpected ways. Being partnered is not an insurance policy. Just ask author and Terrible, Thanks for Asking podcaster , who was widowed at age 31.

In other words, nothing is guaranteed and so it’s not that bad to think about and plan for living alone late in life, should we be so blessed as to live a long time.

Many have shared their aging concerns with me (thank you!). Finances, housing, healthcare and caregiving — of elderly parents or of themselves — seem to be the overwhelming worries. Those are huge.

What about you? What most concerns you most about aging alone (yes, even you partnered hetero gals; most of us outlive our male partners by a few years so we need to expect that we’ll be living solo at some point).

Originally published at

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Award-winning journalist, coauthor of “The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels,” mom, changing the narrative about older women

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