Living Alone after Retirement
“I just turned 75 and there’s little to complain about!” chuckles Phyllis Janto, a 75 year old artist from the small town of Washington in Maine. For Phyllis, who spent most part of her 50s taking care of her ailing husband, her life pretty much began in her later years.
Although Phyllis and her husband Martin Janto spent most of their life doing what they both loved, it was only after Martin was gone and Phyllis was left alone to deal with the pangs of widowhood that she found true comfort and meaning in her art.
At 60, she had two choices: to sit alone in her home and get depressed about her loneliness; Or, accept the change life brought her way and make the most out of it.
Phyllis picked the latter and 16 years later, she couldn’t have asked for a more fulfilling and satisfying life!
Surrounded by her close circle of friends–most in their later years-Phyllis is a living example of what it means to “age gracefully”.
Enjoying every bit of her later years, Phyllis spends her time learning and practicing new techniques in wood sculpting, growing organic plants in her backyard, hosting exhibitions with her fellow sculptors and making long-distance phone calls to her son Paul and daughter Hrana (who is also an artist) to discuss her busy but exciting life in Maine.
So, how has the experience of living alone in her later years affected Phyllis?
“I don’t know…you tell me!” her face lights up with warmth. “I am always busy. I have an exhibition coming up-got lots to do…I never really get the time to think about things like loneliness…I guess it’s all in the mind, the more you dwell on it, the more it grips you; Stay happy, surround yourself with positive thoughts and it’ll never bother you.”
Living Alone: A Blessing in Disguise
Most of us find ourselves living alone after retirement due to a number of reasons. It could be that we have lost our spouse, or it could be that we have separated. Our children have left the house to lead their own lives and we have to accept living alone after we retire.
However, living alone does not necessarily mean loneliness. Living by yourself can be difficult and hard to accept but you need to have an optimistic attitude about it and accept it. Living alone can be a blessing in disguise because it can be a time to rediscover yourself. For example, you can pursue a hobby that you had given up or you may even take up a new hobby. You have more time now for yourself now, so go ahead and pamper yourself in small ways. Do things that you enjoy doing, plan a weekend picnic with friends, watch a good movie, get a skin treatment or a new hair-do at the salon.
This is a new stage in your life, so make the most of it. Some of the things you can do to be physically fit and emotionally happy are:
- Socialize often. We love to live in a community so go out and make an effort to associate with others. You may make good friends in time, who can offer emotional and physical comfort for you. Make plans with friends and family. Watch movies, plan weekend picnics or lunch together, go to a restaurant that your friends like too and eat out.
- Senior years do not mean that you give up on things you enjoyed before. You are only as old as you think. So instead of giving up activities that you enjoyed go ahead and spend more time on those, now that you do not have other commitments to keep you busy. Take up a hobby you had to give up or develop new interests and hobbies. Gardening is a good hobby and gives you the daily exercise you need. You can also learn new skills now that you have a lot of time in your hands.
- Keep a positive outlook about life. This is not a journey towards the end, but a new beginning. Go ahead and enjoy your life and have a great time. Who knows but you may find a partner to share your future years with! Don’t dwell on your loneliness. This can be emotionally harmful. Research says that reminiscing is good for health and helps you accept life in a positive way.
- Keep yourself busy. Share your talents and knowledge with others. This will bring you recognition and you will feel important. Enroll your services with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). You may also offer to help at the local hospital or church or any other local agency which will not be too stressful for you.
- If you do not have a pet, then this is a good time to adopt one. Your pet will love you unconditionally and not demand too much from you. All it will ask for is love and a little attention.
- If you are homebound and cannot go out then stay connected to your loved ones over the telephone and the internet. Call each other often to discuss what’s going on or chat or write to them. Look up the contact number of your local agency or your place of worship and request for home visitation services. Enquire about community transportation services too so that you are not only confined to your home but can meet others outside too.
- Now that you are living by yourself, it is very important that you stay fit, physically as well as mentally. So keep a few light exercises in your regular routine. Seek the help of friends or your doctor if you have sleep difficulties or are experiencing digestive problems or loss of appetite, if you are reluctant to do things or make decisions. These may be symptoms of depression. Do not shun away from accepting help if your healthcare provider thinks you need it. There is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of.
- Feel good about yourself. You deserve to a treat so pamper yourself. Get a skin treatment or a massage or a hairdo at the salon. Go shopping by yourself or with others, treat yourself to your favorite snack or ice-cream at the restaurant. Just do things you like to do. The bottom line is Be Happy.