Color & Control:

Living solo: A singles guide to thriving 

By Rick Lauber

Sometimes by choice, and other times by chance, many of us live alone. Regardless of our circumstances, there can be a heightened risk for loneliness, declining health and personal safety issues. Hence, there is often concern expressed by others and sometimes worries we have ourselves. 

But according to those who’ve been there and done that, with a little planning, kindness and community mindfulness there are ways to make life that much more meaningful and less risky. Here’s what we learned by chatting with some older adults who’ve lived on their own that you can use yourself or share:

1) Out and about. With warmer weather it’s much easier to get outside and chat with people on your street, store owners and passers-by. Explore the neighbourhood. Learn where the parks are, chat with people walking their dogs and while you’re at it stop at a local coffee shop or visit the library and see what’s going on there. Put your name forward to help out at the town fair or a local charity event. Watch out for outdoor plays and concerts. Find out when youngsters are playing baseball and follow a team or two. Perhaps you can give the kids a tip or two or volunteer to help out if sports is your thing. 

I read the community newspaper and watch local bulletin boards for events. 

2) Build an activity network. We all have our circle of friends. At our age it’s important to refresh your network and find a variety of people with whom you can  enjoy different activities and conversations. Here are more ideas that’ll get you out there:

• Visit community and senior’s centres. These are wonderful places with activities and events publicly posted and all are welcome—often free of charge.

• Seek out a walking club. Two things at once—a way to get some exercise and, perhaps, connect with others who a like-minded. Clubs often give an option for slower walkers over shorter distances so don’t be afraid to ask.

• Let’s be friends. Remote connections can be quite meaningful for some folks so why not use your home computer to join on-line chat groups. Be sure to verify the group’s legitimacy and don’t provide personal information or too many details until you’re comfortable.

Never send money to someone you meet on line. A friend lost several thousand dollars in a dating site scam.

3) Furry companions. It’s been said that those who own pets are happier, healthier and more active. Providing you are able to care for them, pets make wonderful companions. When selecting a pet, consider the animal’s size and energy level … a large dog, for example, maybe too active for you in more ways than one.

My mother insisted on adopting a dachshund pup. But it was far too rambunctious for her to keep up with. 

4) Solo adventures. Short day trips or weekend group getaways maybe a good way to start. No harm in going on your own but these days there are plenty of options for participating in outings, activities and travel experiences as a “single.” And, in some cases, there’s no supplemental charge.

5) Know your neighbours. If family cannot visit regularly and a hand is needed, your best friend maybe someone living right next door. Your family and friend will feel more peace of mind if they keep an eye on you, watch the property while you’re out/away and even have a spare key. 

6) Think young, not old. Attitude matters. The old expression “you’re only as old as you feel may come into play here.” It’s certainly true that the more energetic and open minded you are, the easier it will be to find new avenues to explore. Focus on your brain health with puzzles and games and interesting documentaries, opt for gentle physical exercise that suits you, and keep up with technology as much as you can to broaden your horizons.  

One gent I know took a part-time job at a Tim Hortons– he smiled broadly when explaining his motives: Extra income, socialization, and a reason to get out of his house. 

Rick Lauber is a freelance writer. He has written two books, Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver’s Guide.

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