Did you realize that 25% of the population in North America live alone in both rural and urban environments? Some facts to consider: in 2000, 41% of households in Tokyo were comprised of only one person. In Australia, the number of women living alone rose to 13% in 2003 from 11% a decade earlier and approximately 46 million people now live alone in Europe. 50% of Moscow’s population are living in solitude as well.
An increasing population faces old age and our greatest fear now appears to be dying alone, ahead of lack of adequate pain control. Progressive changes in society and the way we live will mean many more people will have to face their biggest fear. This certainly underscores the high importance of companionship and accentuates having to go through the dying process alone.
A new survey in Britain has predicted that by 2021, the population of the elderly living solo will increase by as much as one-third. On average, Americans spend half of their adult lives outside marriage, many of them living alone. Society now faces the challenge of an increasing number of deaths among singular folks as more and more people face living the end of their life alone. A frightening state of affairs for us all.
- Childlessness or children living far from away – amount of children in a family decreased significantly
- Divorce, separation or death of a spouse/partner – a considerable decline in marriages and an extensive increase in divorces
- Having a small homogenous social network
- Having or developing a physical or mental impairment – one in four will experience mental illness in their lifetime.
It is apparent that there are many factors contributing to social isolation at the end of life. People living alone may not have adequate access to similar choices as those with families may have.
Isn’t it time that as a prominent group, the Baby Boomers (myself included) need to reach out even more to ensure we have plenty of support in our friends, family, neighbors and our network of people in similar situations looking out for one another?
There are many variations but I’ve only summarized here what seems to be the going trend. Remember as women outnumber men in our society, the numbers prove that many more women are finding themselves alone in midlife.
There are world-wide programs such as in Shanghai in effect to help ease the difficulties sustained by those living alone, including the elderly.
I reach out to “my girls” (gal pals) to get together for lunch or cocktails, or dinner to catch up on one another. Also I walk or bike the neighborhood and talk to people I see working in their yards, and I volunteer on our Neighborhood Watch Patrol to keep in touch with our community. There are so many ways we can try to help one another. Isn’t it safe to say you can come up with quite a few and perhaps implement one or two into your schedule?
I’ve lost both of my parents, but I cannot imagine them having to go through the isolation, loneliness and fear of growing older alone. I implore all of us to try and look out for each other. Post some suggestions in the comments below – let’s see how original and creative we can be to help one another now. Remember, even if you’re already taking care of your elderly or ailing parents or spouse or loved ones, you still need to be helped socially with your network of friends also. Reach out and touch some lives here right now – write / post your thoughts to help out others.