When you are sixty-something and living alone

I came home from work one day to find my husband gone. All he left me was an empty bank account,
Opinion

I came home from work one day to find my husband gone. All he left me was an empty bank account, a large mortgage and a sticky note to order me not to try and contact him. Five years later and sixty something years old, I live with my little dog in a rented unit in a suburb of Hobart, Tasmania. Now I am here to tell you what it’s like. There are I imagine, thousands of us who have been “left holding the bag” so to speak, both men and women. This is my experience.

After the initial shock of my husband of over twenty years – my first ever childhood boyfriend, the father of my sons – leaving, I faced a dilemma. But not to go into all the dramas, I found myself bankrupt and in a low-paid job. All I had worked for to have a better life in retirement and to give a little something to my children, was gone. So I hope you understand when I tell you for a long time I went to bed every night dreaming of the sort of torture I could inflict on my ex, or at least hoping a truck backed over him.

But to get back to me. Eventually I left my job of over ten years and moved closer to my youngest son. It didn’t occur to me I wouldn’t get another job. Hey, I was only sixty, had some qualifications and not too stupid I thought. Wrong! According to the powers that be, I was over qualified, under qualified and shock horror, too old. I wasn’t and am not too old but maybe over qualified (wink wink) or probably a little stupid? Of course by now I had been diagnosed with Chronic Bronchitis. No biggy, but it does stop you from breathing properly, just a minor setback. Who needs to breathe properly anyway right? I could still work in non exertion type jobs, which were what I was applying for anyway, but just not so many hours. Two years down the track, I still look at the jobs sections and still apply periodically but I’m not holding my breath and with the way I breathe, I figure that is a good thing.

So I live on my own with a little dog for company. It’s not perfect but it’s my life. There are days when I struggle. There are days when I see or talk to no-one but my puppy. There are days when finances allow that I treat myself to a movie or an outing with my friend Debbie, who by the way, I only met through SAS and has sometimes been my saviour. I get up every morning and go to bed every night in my little unit with my little dog. I wonder how my kids are doing and I wonder if something will be different the next day. What I don’t wonder about is whether someone else will have to be taken into consideration when I cook, or if I don’t feel like making the bed. As a woman (no offence to you men out there), my bathroom and toilet are always nice and clean and smelling sweet, if you know what I mean. I suit myself when I get up or go to bed or eat and if I want a wine or two, I don’t have to worry about anyone frowning at me0505

Life on your own can be daunting in this unforgiving world of today, especially if you are over sixty and a little more so for a woman I think. If you don’t have a healthy bank account, it’s hard, if you can’t get work, it’s hard, if your kids forget you are alive, it’s hard. You often wonder what will become of you if you suddenly take very ill or run out of money or can’t afford the rent. You suddenly have to be very careful what food you buy and learn how to stretch the budget to breaking point and beyond. After all, you are alone. Some people will say it’s easy; maybe it is. I have never shied away from “hard” but just once in awhile I’d like it to be a little easier.

You see, most of the time I am alone, but not lonely. But some of the time, loneliness sets in. Most of the time, I don’t mind so much that I don’t know where I will get the money for the car rego, but some of the time frustration sets in. Most of the time I optimistically think about what it will be like on my overseas holiday or when my young gorgeous cowboy finds his cougar and runs off with me.

For now though, I’ll settle for some food in the fridge and warmth coming out of the heater. I’ll settle for clean bathroom and a nice long call from my kids. I’ll settle for stretching out on both sides of the bed, when my little dog allows me to. It’s hard for some of us living alone, but only some of the time. I think life is full of surprises so keep looking for them. To all of you out there living alone and struggling at times, chin up, head high and remember. It could be worse, you could be the one my ex ran off with.

Share your thoughts below.

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This piece was originally published on Starts at 60 as ‘Sixty something and living alone’. It was one of our most popular contributions by the Starts at 60 community in 2016.

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  1. Kerry Brain  

    It is remarkable how much my own story paralleled yours. The only difference was, I was in my late 30s, had two children and was left with a large amount of debt (his) as well. To add into the mix, my ex left 4 days after my doctor told me that I required major surgery- he couldn’t cope with that. He offered to come back, on his terms……..he was given a rather short reply.

  2. jo myles  

    Your story is so similar to mine. I had the good fortune of having a part time job until I got to 65 and the pension was available. My health had always been a problem, then I had alot of accidents in 2016. Am lucky to still be here. I had a darling little dog, who made me smile. But unfortunately last year I lost him to cancer. I too have good and bad days emotionally. I joined a Choir and go to laughter classes. This helped me to find some new friends, without them I would not have coped last year. My sons both have health problems so I try not to ask alot of them, but they are very loving to their Mum. Being alone is tough but I would prefer that, to what I had to deal with before.

  3. Lynda Hanssen  

    Loving being on my own at 62. Small mortgage on a small townhouse. I do what I please when I please. Love the contact with my children and family. I am sensible about personal security. It has taken a few years to get to this point but each day brings such contentment.

  4. Valerie  

    I admire the fact you still have a sense of humor after what has happened to you. I’m 65 and been living on my own for 15 years I live in affordable housing so l am secure re roof over my head. I don’t want to charge my living arrangements. I love the freedom of being single and the knowledge that my peace of mind and contentment rests in hands and my hands only. Wishing you well in your adventure called life.

  5. Johanna  

    I am well past sixty. I also live alone, well, sort of. Two cats and a dog live with me. I have a son and two grandsons. I only hear from my son, who lives close nt, when he wants something, usually for me to mind the kids. I lost my eldest son to suicide sixteen years ago. His father, my ex of some years, blamed me for it. I have no other family available, but i have very good friends. I write, i sing with a group, i volunteer as a driver of a community mini bus. I like being single. I am concerned about the fact that if i got sick at all, what would i do. So far, so good, apart from the odd ache in the hips and knee. Life is good. I am not turning up my tootsies yet. There is a lot of this country i want to see. Not easy to save on the pension and pay private rent but not impossible. My knight in shining armour must have lost his GPS though.

  6. Lucinda  

    Married December 23, 1969, divorced December 23, 1996. It has now been 20 years since the divorce (I call my 25 year prison term, where I was let off for good behavior). I am 65 going on 66, and for the life of me, most days, I don’t know what to do with myself. I have five children, most of which don’t know if I am alive or dead, yet treat their dad entirely different, always visiting for vacations or holidays, I can’t even get a card. It’s good to be alone in the sense I don’t have to experience his cheating ways, tirades and name calling.. Loved his colorful metaphors towards me. Some days are long, while some lately, have been extremely short (yet to figure out that one).. The mental and some physical abuse, has left me apprehensive over getting married again, but do miss the company of a man if that makes sense. Some day, Lord willing maybe I will, for now, even after all these years, my heart still needs to heal………

  7. Heather  

    When my marriage ended after 30 years I moved from Queensland (his dream) back to Victoria to be closer to my family and coming grandchild. For 7 years I was there for my daughter as she had her children and for my mum as she passed away from cancer. Now I’m back in the town where I grew up and feeling happier than I have in years. It’s a very friendly place, I see people I’ve known all my life but my friends are people I’ve met since I came back. I stay in touch with my family, go and visit them when I’m not busy and can get a dogsitter. My biggest problem is I’m too busy. I’ve had to cut back on my community involvement because of my health, but I love every minute of being here. People I don’t know come to me with questions on the history of the town, and I’m well known for my local ghost stories.
    If you’re in a city and lonely, try checking out a few country towns. Some people are hard to get to know, but a lot are welcoming and if you get out and volunteer you’ll make new friends.

  8. I think the lesson is to plan your own future. Don’t depend on men. They often let you down. Get educated, get your own superannuation and put your own needs before his. You will get no thanks for being a poverty stricken Saint. The writer is a courageous woman. She has given fair warning about caring about your own future. Train your daughters to do the same.

  9. Heather  

    It’s amazing how many of us are in the boat-so to speak.

    • Irene Halls  

      Yes Fran’s story is similar to my own although I have quite a few health problems I was married for over 20 yrs also had a couple of separations then decided to get back together so I thought went to talk things over with him and found out he had met someone else I have been divorced for 20 yrs now and yes live alone and for most of the time I’m ok but sometimes loneliness does creep in but I have some great friends and family. I cannot see myself bothering to look for a partner I’m 64 now I had a few dates after I got over the divorce but didn’t want to go down that path again. So yep it’s all my choice

  10. Heather  

    I am 62 and alone but because my husband had the nerve to die on me but no matter what happens it is still the same I don’t have a job have tried but no luck I have three sons who are great. Have to watch my dollars try to fill my days I have a few pets to keep me busy but on a recent trip with one of my sons I decided it was a couples world but don’t think I could be bothered with meeting someone

  11. Joyce leslie  

    Yes I’m in the same boat as many others. It’s hard at times to fill your day without thinking of the negative things. So you end up sitting in front of the tv.
    We should start a chat room we’re we over sixty can talk to each other . Make new friends and get advice from each other.

  12. Cheryl Moulton  

    I am now 67, I was married for 28yrs and when my husband decided he no longer loved me, I was suffering chronic pain and deep, suicidal clinical depression.
    Initially, I was devastated (of course) and really didn’t know what I was going to do. After 12 months on my own, I decided to move back to my home state (I had moved to please my now ex husband) and I reclaimed my maiden name.
    I adopted a rescue dog and cat (he would never let us have a cat), and I began my life anew.
    Over the last nearly 17yrs, I have gone through many new stages in my life, after discovering my Spiritual side and learning that I was an empath, and a Clairvoyant & immersing myself in palliative care volunteering.
    When my daughter and her husband decided they were returning to Melbourne to stay (at the time they were both serving members of RAAF), on a spur of the moment, I decided I would return as well.
    Now 6yrs later & living in a Retirement Village, I am so busy I don’t have enough hours in my day. I am President /secretary / social secretary of my village, I volunteer at a Nursing home, teach English to Refugees and I am a coordinator on Victorian Lost Pets Register……………all voluntarily of course.
    I now find myself with another title ‘actress’ as I have bravely thrown myself into the ‘entertainment’ world where I initially was an ‘extra’ and now performing in speaking roles.
    Money? I am on a full pension (yes I declare any money earned, which is very little at this stage) and I am easily able to live withing my means, although I now have another rescue dog (and the same cat who is now 15yrs old).
    I am the happiest I can remember in many years.
    I have two main philosophies – live positively and life is already a huge percentage better and Practice random acts of kindness! not necessarily (and preferably not) big or noticeable, sometimes simple small acts such as allowing someone into your lane on a busy road…..
    My message is that no one should ever feel lonely, there are a multitude of volunteer jobs where seniors are the best fit, adopt a rescue dog or cat.
    Speak to the person next to you at a bus stop, in the queue at the supermarket, at the next table when having a coffee! go to the ‘SAS morning coffee days’

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