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Planning Retirement Online

Beyond the Headlines

June 2012


By Jeanne DavisJeanne Davis

Each month our resident writer and commentator Jeanne Davis goes behind recent news stories to comment on various ideas and subjects that have special resonance for our age group.

Written in her usual thought provoking and entertaining style, we know you will enjoy this addition every month




The thought of living alone once sparked anxiety and visions of loneliness. But now more people live alone that at any other time in history. In his new book “Going Solo: The extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone”, professor of sociology Eric Klinenberg discovers what’s behind the census data.

He says of the findings of his seven-year research study that “living alone no longer suggests an isolated or less-social life” and concludes that “living alone seems to encourage more, not less social interaction. In fact, living alone can make it easier to be social, because single people have more free time, absent family obligations, to engage in social activities. Single people are more likely than married ones to spend time with friends and neighbours, go to restaurants and attend art classes and lectures.”

New communications technologies make living alone a social experience, so being home alone does not feel like solitary confinement. The Internet opens up a world of people, information and ideas, and does not seem to cut people off from real friendships and connections

Today in the United States the largest number of single people are middle aged: 15 million people between ages 35 and 64 live alone. Those who decided to live alone said in interviews that they "chose to live alone because they had found there was nothing worse than living with the wrong person.”

The trend to singleness is hardly confined to America: Britain, Scandinavia and Japan all post figures showing even greater percentages of singletons in the population.

In Klinenberg’s interviews older single people also expressed a clear preference for living alone, which allowed them to retain their feelings of independence and integrity, and a clear aversion to moving in with friends or family or into a nursing home.

According to economist Kathleen McGarry: “When they have more income and they have a choice of how to live,” older widows, widowers and divorced people “choose to live alone. They buy their independence.”

But all too often many older people do become dangerously isolated. Counsel and Care, a British charity, which offers support and advice for the elderly, says in a recent report that more than 1.2million elderly people are living isolated and lonely lives.

Counsel and Care urge us all to find new ways of reconnecting older people to their communities. The charity is leading the way and has developed a national network of befriending schemes called VitalLinks. have set up an online Befriending Directory that lists local befriending providers and volunteers nationwide. . Anyone can consult the directory that includes both home visiting and telephone befriending.

Said Dennis, one participant, to his telephone befriender, “I didn’t think you’d call over the bank holiday, it’s so nice you did…it’s such a long weekend when everything closes.”


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