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How to Thrive as a Single Person in Retirement

You can enjoy an active, happy and fulfilling retirement with the right attitude and thoughtful preparation.

[Editor's note: An expanded version of this article appears here.]

If you are single, you probably have some concerns about your retirement that people with partners are less likely to experience.

If you are married today, consider that someday you may encounter these same concerns if your spouse passes before you do.

With awareness and proper planning, you can address these concerns and be better situated to enjoy a happy and secure retirement.

Here are four ways you can thrive as a single person in retirement:

1.      Cultivate a support network.

Identify people who are available to occasionally check in on you and help with tasks such driving you to appointments and assisting you with shopping and chores. If you are healthy and independent now, you may not require the support of others for many years to come. But an emergency could occur at any time, so it’s a good idea to have a network in place now.

Many medical procedures are done on an outpatient basis and hospital stays are shrinking, so you will need to have someone who can transport you home and visit regularly to assist you during your convalescence. Hiring a home care aide is an option, but that can get expensive.

If you don’t have family members nearby who are willing and able to assist you, you will need to rely on friends and neighbors. You shouldn’t wait until you need help to figure out who can assist you. It will be awkward to try to develop a friendship with someone when it’s obvious that you have an immediate need for them.

If you aren’t surrounded by a sufficient support network of friends, family, and neighbors, research whether there are senior support organizations in your area and what services they can provide. If you are planning to move to a new locale in retirement, the existence of such an organization would be a good criterion for you to consider.

2.      Build your social network.

Once you stop working and are no longer surrounded by work acquaintances, you will need to devote more effort to creating and maintaining friendships. Similarly, if your marriage ends as a result of death or divorce, you will have a greater need for socialization.

An excellent option is to take classes on topics that interest you. Not only will you benefit from mental stimulation, but you’ll meet people who have similar interests. Local community colleges or universities may have programs allow senior learners to attend courses on a non-credit basis for free or at low cost. Organizations such as Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) and SeniorNet can help you find programs of interest to you.

While you may value having some solitude in your life, you shouldn’t spend all your time at home. If you can’t find a friend to go with you, don’t let that stop you from going to a restaurant, movie, concert, museum, or a day trip.  Enjoying entertainment on your own can be a big adjustment if you are newly single after years of marriage.

3.      Consider alternative living arrangements.

If you are accustomed to living alone, you may be able to continue long into retirement. But the time will come when living with others or living in a close-knit community becomes desirable or even necessary. Here are two options for living arrangements that can provide support and delay the need to move to an assisted living facility:

Co-housing communities are intentional communities of private homes clustered around a shared space. Each attached or single family home has traditional amenities, including a private kitchen. Shared spaces typically feature a common house, which may include a large kitchen and dining area, laundry and recreational spaces. Neighbors commit to being part of a community for everyone’s mutual benefit. They collaboratively plan and manage community activities and shared spaces and also share resources like tools and lawnmowers. For more information on co-housing, visit the Co-housing Association of the United States.

Shared housing is simply two or more unrelated adults sharing a home. The Golden Girls TV show was a prime example. There are several websites that can assist people seeking house sharing arrangements with finding those who have space to offer. These sites also offer resources for how to establish and manage successful house sharing arrangements. Visit the National Shared Housing Resource Center for more information.

4.      Be willing to travel solo.

Traveling solo might be the one of the biggest challenges you face as a single retiree, especially if you have been accustomed to traveling with your spouse. You may be reluctant to travel alone for anything more adventurous than a visit to family members. But the fact that you are single is no reason to excise your travel dreams from your bucket list!

When you travel by yourself, you can truly set your own itinerary. You won’t have to compromise with a travel companion who doesn’t want to do the same things you do. If you feel tired one day, you can relax without being concerned that you’re depriving your travel partner of anything.

If you have some reservations about traveling alone, begin slowly. Start with day trips in your car or weekend trips to a nearby city. Cruise ships and group tours are options worth considering.

When traveling solo, exercise common sense and follow safety precautions.

  • If you’re exploring on your own, leave a note with your day’s itinerary in your hotel room so that if you don’t return, authorities will know where to start looking for you.
  • Stay in open, public spaces, especially at night.
  • Research maps, transportation schedules and prices before you venture outside, so you appear confident.
  • Learn how much a taxi should cost and verify the amount with the driver before you begin the ride.

While being retired as a single person does present some challenges, you can still enjoy an active, happy and fulfilling retirement with the right attitude and thoughtful preparation.

What are your biggest concerns with being single in retirement? If you are single now, what advice can you offer? Please share in the comment below!

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Reprinted from my blog on U.S. News - On Retirement.
© 2017 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.

Photo credits:
Lady in plaid shirt: David Shankbone. Some rights reserved.
Networking event: Link Humans. Some rights reserved.
Co-housing community: Joe Wolf. Some rights reserved.
Travel books: LenDog64. Some rights reserved.

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