Is this the biggest health risk over 60s face? 152



View Profile

New statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics have indicated that by 2035, an extra one million Australians will be living on their own. That will bring 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 This often leads to a decrease in self-confidence, particularly in social settings and therefore people become withdrawn.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.

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Just because you live alone you don’t need to be lonely. I’ve lived alone for many years and have a very busy, happy life interacting with my family and community, and also enjoying quiet time to garden, and enjoy other hobbies.

  2. Some people these days are too busy to notice the older generation . Somehow we have lost our caring for others. We will all get old ,that’s a fact .

  3. This is very true, you may have great family and friends but you still spend ninety per cent of your time alone.

  4. I like living on my own, I am not lonely, have a great relationship with my children and a wonderful group of friends.

    9 REPLY
    • You are very lucky. I don’t have a daughter and my sons are so busy with their life and families. I keep busy and active but my friends seem to all have kids who include them in various aspects of their lives. I get joy from my grandkids but they will grow up and I worry about the future.

    • I like living alone too. I do as I please and I have a good relationship with my kids and see them on facebook and the ones near by, every second weekend. They don’t need me in their pocket. I am capable and independent. Friends and I go to the movies each tuesday and I have tai chi and other interests and a dear little dog. The only thing I insist on is that people ring before they visit and then I am happy to see them.

    • Sarah the trouble is when a son marries they usually go to ONLY the partners family things and never come near the mother..i know a lady who that happened to she was lucky to see her son once a year one Christmas day she went to the sons house and all the wifes family was there EXCEPT she wasn’t invited so she knocked on the door the grand child answered went to tell the father a lady was at the door he looked and she said hello.,….. I have come to spend the day with u and your family he didn’t know what to say..the wife soon told her she is NOT invited so she made a great racket until the wifes father came to the door he didn’t even remember who she was .. she was turned away by the DIL.. she went and as soon as her solicitor was open she changed her will .. he got NOTHING.. and in it was stated if he contested it if he got any money it was to be given to the RSPCA…he was her only child .. when she got sick she gave away a lot of her things I even was given some very nice things as I was her friend.. I was the one who made sure she was OK.. I did NOT expect anything from her.. when she did pass her son came to the funeral as it was ME who rang him .. but the DIL couldn’t wait for the will to be read hahaha they got a shock she even left a letter for him with the solicitor to be given to him on her death… so she had the last laugh..

    • Omg that is an aweful story but rather common I think. I hardly hear from my sons and now my DIL has stopped me seeing my grandchildren. I have commenced legal proceedings to get regular access. I think my boys are just too wrapped up in their own lives and don’t give a second thought to anyone but themselves

    • I have experienced being married and also living alone for 10 years, I know when I was on my own married friends had no idea how hard it is sometimes when a single person has to go out alone, even to shopping where you see couples together, going to markets where you see couples laughing and sharing life together, being invited out without a partner and everyone there seems to have someone, and when I was insulated for 27 years in my first marriage I had NO idea what folks on their own go through emotionally or financially…it is hard at times…good luck to the writer of this piece x

    • I am lucky that I do see one sons family as I mind their kids a bit. The other two sons families I hardly see. Never a phone call from my sons to say ‘hi’. They don’t return my calls. I honestly thought I was a good mum. Makes me wonder now. Lucky to have that one considerate son who lets me share their kids I know. My friends have daughters who include them in outings and family stuff. I am really envious. Especially seeing (on facebook), my DIL’s families doing stuff with them. But without facebook I would be even more cut off at least seeing what my grandkids are up to. I love my own space but living alone is hard. And it will get harder as I age. Old age is not attractive at all as finances and mobility reduce. Gee I’m full of doom and gloom today. Sorry. Life is OK so far but with my family history I could live for 30+ more years. Doesn’t bear thinking about actually..

    • I am one of the lucky ones. I enjoy my own company and dont crave that of others, although I do like spending time with friends I have made since moving here 3 years ago. I moved from a small country town in south east of S.A. to another here in north east Victoria to be nearer to my eldest daughter and her husband and family. I made a great effort to join in a group who immediately accepted me and I’ve never been happier. I also volunteer at an Aged Care facility. My family live about 35 kms away and I usually see them only on Sundays. I have other family living in Perth and also one in Adelaide, so dont get to see them very often, but I know that if I had a need they would be there for me. I do hope those who are lonely will soon see a way out.

  5. This is very true. My husband died two years ago and despite having a good daughter and her family close by I feel very alone. There is a difference between being ‘lonely’ and feeling ‘alone’. I have friends but they can’t replace a constant companion. Living in a regional area we don’t have access to the variety of retirement homes or accommodation or activities that are available in cities. I can definitely relate to the loss of self confidence and loss of identity as a single person.

    8 REPLY
    • Oh Karen I hear you! My husband died 11 yrs ago. I am terrible lonely too. I tend to stay home as I don’t like going to things alone (my friends have husbands)

      1 REPLY
      • Don’t let being alone stop you. I went to Evita yesterday and I love travelling alone. I guess everyone is different though. I don’t go to clubs or pubs alone but the movies, shopping or a play is fine. I lost my husband almost 9 years ago.

    • Oh all you guys have to do something for each other !!! I’m with my hubby so I can’t relate but I would think of something especially on a forum like this !! Get together !! Hey u might live next door !! Good luck !!

    • I can relate, my two sons live at least 3 hrs away and my daughter is interstate. Yes I have friends but they have families and I don’t like to intrude on their weekends. Weekends and holiday weekends are my worst times. Having no immediate neighbours doesn’t help.

    • If only Loretta! I notice Cherie is in Victoria, Karin is in Hobart and I am in Rockhampton in Queensland. 🙂

    • Karen I can relate to being lonely yes I lost my darling just over one year ago ( second marriage ) children to our first marriages they were all grown adults when we married the mother to my three boys passed away ( breast cancer ) my darling had two daughters ( father still alive living with the oldest daughter ) but I became invisible get a phone call from my middle son just about every day just to complain about his career other two sons never ring only when they want something. The two girls never liked me mum was divorced before we met . So being lonely is a real issue depression fellows , yes a comment was made all friends who care are suggesting do this , do that but all we want is company so maybe become a grey hair nomad lock the house up get a second hand caravan and go and see Aussie apparently fellow pensioners who travel live on pension to pension . Have to try some thing so good luck Karen .

    • Here’s a thought. Many years ago we had just moved into a new area and didn’t know anyone. Someone put an article in our local paper asking for other newcomers to come to a bbq for a meet and greet. We did as did several others, we are still good mates to this day and are very greatful for that first meeting. Maybe something like that would work for you. There would be others in your community in the same situation. Good luck.

    • Ladies and gentlemen you use the Internet , follow up on the groups you see there like this one you can contact each other until you can get out

  6. In the Western world the aged become a nuisance to their families. I am speaking in general and not in particular. Some are dumped in aged care and they never see their rellies again. I have known of at least two that this has happened to. In other countries, the elderly are respected and looked after. We could learn a lot form the Chinese etc. Most of us will get older and frail and will experience what we deal out to others.

    1 REPLY
    • I do love how the Chinese and some other cultures care for their elderly. It is beautiful. The Islanders are a lot like that.

  7. I can relate to Kerrie Bloxsom’s story, very similar. My husband also passed away 2 years ago and have a daughter and family nearby. have lots of friends ( mainly females), lacking male company. Don’t feel bored, but lonely. Hate having meals on my own, hate not be able to share thoughts and ideas. It all leads to depression. Always thought I was the only one who feels like this.
    of course well meaning people always tell you what you should be doing, but you can’t always go out, everything you do, just driving out of your garage is involved in spending money. On a single pension it’s impossible.

    9 REPLY
    • Morvyth I know some ppl whos families have sold their (the parents home) and dumped them into aged care never to be visited again by the family that is totally disgusting.. your right what ur saying the Chinese look after the parents or grandparents with MORE respect than ppl get here…

    • Karin and Kerrie why don’t u join into some groups??? I am sure the council in your area has booklets about what groups u can join into or the local RSL.. here in Sunshine Vict the RSL have a group that meets each Thursday they have speakers and outings.. I am sure there are groups like this in your area…

    • Cheryl – I have joined groups and I volunteer with the local Cancer Council however I still find myself ‘home alone’ most of the time.

    • Reg move here to the beautiful Gold Coast & we can do things together. There are lovely drives & places to go but it’s no fun on your own

    • I feel the same Karen – doesn’t matter how many groups you can join – your soul mate for so many years is not there with you to share lifes experiences and chats and discussions. My daughters and their families aren’t too far away but they aren’t of the same era to chuckle about life

    • Yes I agree with your comments very lonely at night no one to throw ideas about no one to laugh with u at tv programmes.

    • There are many groups to join every where. My hubby and I are challenging our fears and have joined Toastmasters. Have net a lot of lovely people who have fears like us but it’s wonderful.

  8. I live on my own. Don’t have many friends am close to my one sister. BUT I don’t feel alone or lonely. I am happy on my own. Recently acquired 2 kittens. They give me much pleasure.

  9. I think this is true. I worked overseas and lived in nurses homes so there was always someone around. Living on your own can be lonely but a complex can help the situation but the down side of that is having to be tolerant to other people who have different values

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *