As we age, we may also face the death of our partners. Women tend to outlive men, and being over 50 and single (newly single especially) comes with issues that simply did not exist for most people when they were single in the past.
Because so many more of us are living to ripe old ages, singlehood can mean isolation and loneliness. For many who are newly single, career, grown children, and grandchildren can’t replace the lost partner.
Many single women are considered “cougars” and are feared to be husband thieves, when all they crave is the company of dear friends.
Single men may find that the long-dreamed-of “sugar daddy” role appears alluring until it goes bust in real time. We need to change these damaging cultural stories about love and sex in older women and men.
Living alone can be intensely lonely – or wonderful self-care time. Living alone also means not having someone there if something happens to you. Carrying a cell phone or making an arrangement with a friend, relative, or neighbor to regularly check in (or check in with each other) are common ways for people to offset this vulnerability.
Many people over 50 are caring for aging parents, a responsibility that often falls heavily (and unfairly) on the single children in a family. Emotional and physical exhaustion and time constraints are just a few of the obstacles to dating and socializing in general that can come from being a caregiver.
In general, this situation is just one example of why we need to rethink our social networks and communities going forward. We must set our sights on ways to include more intergenerational activities in our lives, and build self-sustaining, accessible communities of multiple generations, among other attributes.
On the bright side, this model is becoming more and more appreciated, as intergenerational friendships and two-way mentorships are showing up in wonderful new ways. One notable method is through establishing intentional co-living spaces for those of multiple generations.
One of the most successful is the Generations Block in Helsinki, Finland, which drew from “the idea of student housing with common rooms and shared spaces and made it multigenerational to create a community within [the] housing development.” People of all ages can connect over shared hobbies and interests, gardening, or making meals together.
Being single does not have to mean being isolated and alone.
What is something you can do to foster intergenerational friendships in a community you’re part of?