Is this the biggest health risk over 60s face today?

New statistics by the Australian Bureau of Statistics have indicated that by 2035, an extra one million Australians will be

New statistics by the Australian Bureau of Statistics have indicated that by 2035, an extra one million Australians will be living on their own, bringing the total number of Australians living in isolation to 3.3 million.

The ageing population are contributing to these statistics as more and more people find themselves alone after being widowed or divorced and it has become the only lifestyle option. But what is the cost of this change?

In retirement, living alone can, for some people, mean spending more time in isolation than with others. This often leads to a decrease in self-confidence, particularly in social settings and therefore people become withdrawn.

Firstly, we have to understand the direct risk of social isolation. Loneliness has been linked to a number of serious health problems including:

  • A study from the University of California in San Francisco identified that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of death (23 per cent versus 14 per cent). It was also associated with functional decline.
  • A study from the University of Chicago has found that loneliness in old age is twice as bad for your health than obesity. In the study, those who reported feelings of loneliness were 14 per cent more likely to suffer significant health complications, including death during the six-year study period.
  • Professional analysis on a series of metadata about loneliness found that the negative impacts of a poor social life as we age are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day, drinking to excess and more harmful than not exercising.

You see, the lifestyle choice that we think impacts our health least actually is one of the most significant. So should we be changing our lifestyle plans to avoid this? If so, what are our options?

The family structure is changing and while previous generations once returned to the homes of their children as they age to be cared for, this is becoming increasingly less popular. This prevented isolation in ageing and helped to foster continuing social connections.

Facilities like retirement villages are one option that doesn’t change the fact that we live on our own, but it provides additional layers of support and social connection within a close environment. It’s easy to find social connection yet residents can still maintain their independence in living alone.

The concept of home sharing is also becoming more important with a few cases of over 60s returning to “live like students” and live with flat mates. It prevents the isolation and security fears that living alone can bring however it may not be ideal for everyone.

Outside of these two options there aren’t many options for older Australians to live a lifestyle without isolation. As many of us are single for different reasons and we enjoy having our own home, the concern for the matter isn’t a high profile problem in Australia, but it could be.

Loneliness is becoming an epidemic that has dire consequences and together, we need to find a solution to make this stop.

Do you live on your own? Do you ever feel lonely or isolated? What alternative solutions would you be willing to try? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Originally published here.

  1. I have lost lived alone by choice for almost 21 years, however I mad the decision while I was working to move to a Retirement Village which has been the best decision I have made since my divorce. Although I don’t feel lonely there are times for what ever reason I do feel a little down, times like these I only need to walk across to the community centre where there is always someone to have a coffee and a chat with. Also there are about 37 interest groups here you can become involved with, so there is plenty for everyone to do and I would recommend it to anyone who thinks they would like the lifestyle.

  2. Fortunately @ 80 I still have part time work and quite enjoy being on my own. Still have plenty of contact with family, friends and public as I live and work on a golf course. One just has to make an effort, phone or write to as many people you know. Always acknowledge communications. No fear on my part. Just happy to be alive and able to talk to people.

    • It is so serene living on a golf course I should know as I also live on a golf course, which we also have lakes that wrap around the Village. It’s a wonderful life and so very peaceful with the lake between our units, and golf course on the other side of the lake.

  3. Yes I live alone. I tried sharing it doesnt work and causes more problems than it solves. I lead a very active social life outside of home I dont feel lonely. Bad times are this time of the year when activities seem to go on hold for sometimes up till early Feb. Ive talked to other people who have the same problem Actually my health improved when the hassles of sharing ceased.

  4. I love living alone. Best lifestyle for me.I have people all around me who are there if I feel like company. I love having my own space and lots of personal freedom.
    Love having things my way I suppose. For most of my life it was just about any way but mine!

    • I feel like an outsider as still live with the old man. Sometimes living with him is like living alone as he is a quiet man. If he ‘goes’ before me I would definitely move into a retirement village. I have suggested we have a look at them but he doesn’t want to move into one. Having said this he lets me do as I please so I’m out and about all the time as I’m quite a social person. A friend of mine came into her own once her husband died as he was so controlling. She lives alone but feels less lonely than when she lived with her partner.

  5. I’ll start with what I think is one of the perks of being alone after 35yrs of marriage. You can damn well please yourself about everything!!! You cook, clean, sleep, go out, come home when ever it suits you but of course it can be gut wrenching the first few times you realise that there is no-one at home who cares whether you make it back safely or not. Like every other aspect of life it is all in your attitude and how you see ‘the glass’; mine is always half full, mind you it would probably be different without friends or if you had a health problem that prevented you from engaging in life. It’s the little things that catch you unawares that bring a sudden tear, memories for instance. when you divorce or lose a partner after many years, you have no -one to share them with. Remember your happiness is your responsibility, do not look to others to provide it for you, old age is a privilege denied many, become that person who smiles whenever someone makes eye contact [ it’s actually a silent conversation], have a little chat when standing in a queue and say ‘thank you’ whenever it’s appropriate, people will remember it and respond to you in a positive manner next time they see you. If you’re reading this and it’s Christmas morning and like me you are alone, don’t think that you’re special, there are millions of us! I’d better stop now, I’m starting to ramble.

    • Susanne – love your post – it is all a matter of attitude! I love living alone too and am never lonely – I enjoy my own company and enjoy going out with friends when I want to

    • Bravo…yes…but I live with two fur babies and to them I am the world…I go out alone…I will call a memour a table for 1…just love it…going out to lunch today…have booked a table for 1….Merry Christmas xxx

    • Why not book a table for two and tell them that if anyone else books a table for one but wishes to share your table, then they are more than welcome. Good way of meeting people too.

    • You live alone, but you have friends. I think this article is the loneliness when you have neither

  6. David Crouch you have the right idea. If you feel lonely make the effort to be in contact with someone and be inclusive of other people in your life.

  7. I understand your ramble totally Susanne Ruedin! Its pretty much how I feel. Some thrive on living alone and some don’t.
    I do. yay!! x

  8. I now live alone as my husband is in Aged Care, I am selling my house and next year will be moving into a retirement village, I have my moments living alone but my house is far too big for me and I don’t want to share with anybody, I have great friends who I will always be in touch with and have already met a few people at the retirement village and they are great, so I am looking forward to the next step
    In my life.

  9. I live alone, most of my life and am very independent. I have lots of things to do and enjoy some solitude. Don’t think I could share.

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