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Are you lonely if you live alone?

living alone in your 50s imageArticle by Ceri Wheeldon

Are we lonely if we live alone? This is a question put to me on the JVS show ob BBC Radio this morning. A study comparing lifestyles from the 1970s to today show a sharp increase in one person households , in fact single person households now account for nearly a third of all homes.

But should people living alone be portrayed as having a sad lonely existence? Is living alone lonely or liberating?

As women over 50 today we  have far more options open to us than women of 40 years ago. There is no stigma associated with being single. We have choices.

I lived alone for most of my 30s through to my mid 40s. Did I feel lonely? No. For me living alone was a far happier (and in my case safer) situation than to stay in an extremely difficult, violent and unhappy marriage. I could make my own choices and was able to regain control over my life. I was able to focus and relaunch my  career and had good friends.  I had a terrific social life-  which took effort at first – initially  I joined a very sociable fitness club and went along to all the events – quizzes, theatre trips- meeting people I could then socialise with outside of organised events.

I still invited friends for dinner – I did not use the fact that I was single as an excuse not to entertain, and happily booked tickets to events with friends. I did the ‘rounds’  in the summer, Ascot races, Cartier polo, Henley Regatta. There seemed to be countless birthday dinner to attend – in fact I was part of what fondly became known as the ‘Group of Six’, 6 single friends (3 male, 3 female) who always made sure we were around to celebrate each others birthdays and do something together on bank holiday weekends.

Coming home to an empty house

I never came home to an empty house – I had a cat who would bound to the front door to greet me as soon as I arrived home. ( my husband often says that he had to wait for the cat to die to come first in my affections!!).

But it did take some effort- if I didn’t want to spend weekends alone I did have to plan ahead. Now of course, we have social media to connect with people. You can always ’chat’ on twitter as you watch Strictly or cheer on your Wimbledon  (Federer for me in case you were wondering)  favourite. Socialising today does not mean face to face. I had one friend who always used to pop around with a bottle of wine on a Sunday evening to watch the Forsythe Saga  together – now we would probably tweet in similar circumstances.

So was I lonely living in alone? No, in fact I was probably far more sociable living alone than I am being part of a couple. In fact it was a huge adjustment for me to live with someone again as I had become so used to not having to consider anyone else’s plans or interests to consider.

I was asked on the radio this morning why I changed my life if I was happy as I was. Well, I met the right person at the right time and was ready to move my life on to a different stage. I often say it would have been great if I could have married and had my husband live in the house next door- just to retain my own space – not really an option !

When single, I was asked, did I not miss coming home to find the kettle on and my dinner cooked for me? I don’t have that now!! As lovely as my husband is, he has never quite mastered the art of cooking – I can live in hope on that front!

Personally I believe that living alone does not mean having to be lonely.

If you want to listen to the show- I’m on at about an hour  into the programme http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p014w328

I would love your views and experiences on this one!


Ceri Wheeldon

Ceri is Founder and Editor of Fabafterfifty.co.uk She is a frequent speaker at events and in the media on topics related to women over 50 , including style and living agelessly. With 20+ years experience as a headhunter Ceri also now helps support those looking to extend their working lives.

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  1. facebook_carole.wyatt

    March 13, 2013

    I’ve lived without a partner for just over 4 years, but only really “felt” it when my younger daughter went to university in September. The first few months were actually far more difficult than I expected; I dated someone not ideal to avoid being “alone” but when that fizzled out I found I started to really enjoy my own space. I wanted to avoid going out all the time, as my work is quite tiring, and also because I need to live quite economically. So I have a “portfolio” of ways to fill my time, some home-based (learning French, singing practice, and knitting-therapy whilst listening to the radio) and outside activities (singing with various groups, cycling/gym, occasional concerts etc). I find I don’t socialise much with groups of people – most of my friends are married, and either don’t socialise much themselves or do “couple-y” things. (Some women seem to think single women will go after their husbands!!) My married friends only seem to invite me out to “girly” evenings, which are OK, but male company is fun sometimes. Gay male friends are an excellent way to fill the gap!

  2. twitter_RhianneGriffith

    August 11, 2013

    Au Contraire – living inside an unhappy marriage can be cripplingly lonely. I’ve experienced this type of relationship and now that I’m single again and happily fulfilled, I see the pain that some of my friends are enduring inside lonely marriages, and count my blessings.

  3. twitter_AnneWareham

    August 11, 2013

    Not enough people realise that you can have the benefits of both living alone and together if you don’t share a bed or bedroom. Indeed, if you can afford it, you can have a separate home within your home – have your own study, bathroom, kitchen – whatever you can manage.
    Adds unbelievably to the joys of being together, to be able to be apart and to do what you like in your own space. Recommended. (and practiced!)


      August 12, 2013

      Hello Anne. Yes I have often thought about this. For me that would be the only other option. My partner living upstairs and me living downstairs. Would work a treat as he is a hoarder and I like space, and our decorating styles differ so much too. Ideal idea.

    • Ceri Wheeldon

      August 12, 2013

      Good for you Anne – I have often said I would be happy if my husband and I lived next door to each other- he wasn’t quite so keen on that idea though! xxx


    August 12, 2013

    Love this article Ceri. I absolutely love living alone. For me it is the freedom to do what I want, when I want without having to worry about anyone else. I was in a 16 year marriage with two wonderful children who have long since flown the nest. I have learnt to enjoy my own company. I do have a partner of 5 years who lives alone too, and under no circumstances would I give up my freedom to live together. I have seen first hand what this would entail. When he stays over at my place, I find myself cleaning up after him. Nightmare!!! I love him to bits but not enough to share my life with. I am at a very different place now. I love his company, but part-time. i spend time at his place once a week, and enjoy it, and once I am home, I enjoy the luxury of my peaceful home. Trust me, there was a time when I wanted to marry again, but not anymore, although I believe in ‘Never say Never’. Right now, I love my life. Should I find myself single again, it would have to take a really, really special man to take me away from my splendid life, and I would want to see how he would enhance it. But, I suspect that I will continue with my peaceful life for a very long time. What I truly see in my future, is me sitting on my balcony in Barcelona sipping on tea and enjoying croissants.

    • Ceri Wheeldon

      August 12, 2013

      It sounds as though you have the best of both worlds at the moment Fabarina. I think there are merits in living alone and as part of a couple, but I think it must be awful to live with someone and still feel lonely! Barcelona sounds fabulous 🙂

  5. Jo Carroll

    August 12, 2013

    I live alone – and it’s not what I would have chosen, as I was widowed in my 40s with four daughters to bring up. But now they’ve flown, and I can shape life to suit myself, I love it.

    I’m lucky – I have daughters and grandchildren and friends who love me. I have an old aunt who was housebound before going into a nursing home and saw no one but the meals-on-wheels lady from one week’s end to the next. She found comfort in reading, and watching the birds in her garden, but it was no substitute for people calling by because they were interested in her.

    But for those of us who are healthy – I’ve found a contentment in living alone I could never have predicted. Would I want a man to share this space – I don’t think so. I’m beyond picking up someone’s socks from the bathroom floor. But the occasional visitor – well, that can be fun …

  6. Ceri Wheeldon

    March 8, 2013

    Thanks for your input Mona. I think we are so lucky to live at a time when we have more options. So pleased you are enjoying this period of your life on your own – I know that from my own experience when I did choose to commit to a new relationship, it was from a position of better knowing who I was, and from a position of strength not weakness. Settling for second best was not an option as my life was already pretty full. I look forward to hearing more about your own journey. Ceri x

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