Living Alone After 50 Is Becoming Increasingly Common

An increasing amount of people who are divorced, separated, or don't have any family responsibilities are now living alone. For many, it's a fulfilling experience. However, others are suffering in silence due to the loneliness of living alone.
Living Alone After 50 Is Becoming Increasingly Common

Last update: 02 August, 2022

Whoever thinks that when they reach middle age, life reaches a point of harmonious balance in which there are hardly any ups and downs is wrong. Because even at this stage, there are changes, some of which can be pretty abrupt. For instance, divorces, job changes, and the reformulation of goals.

Obviously, we can’t equate middle age with adolescence. However, we’re witnessing interesting and striking phenomena. In fact, we’ve been seeing for a few decades how this sector of the population is exhibiting new behavioral patterns. It might mean we’ll have to reformulate some of our existing ideas.

For several decades, psychology has divided the stages of human development in a rather specific way. Childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, and old age were those essential cycles with their own characteristics. Nowadays, a striking gap seems to have opened up around the age of 50. It’s no longer a time when people prepare for retirement, menopause, or experiences like empty nest syndrome.

As a matter of fact, at this stage, many people divorce and start a new life alone. They also create new social networks and professional opportunities.

Middle age isn’t a stable stage. Now, more than ever, notable changes are occurring that are well worth studying. 

Man looking out the window thinking of living alone after 50
Not all people over 50 are comfortable being alone.

Living alone after 50, between personal fulfillment and unwanted loneliness

The person who lives alone, especially if they’re 50, 60, or 70 years old, is generally viewed with some sadness and concern. Indeed, they’re assumed to be socially isolated and without strong family ties. This is a stereotype deeply rooted in our cultural narratives that, however, isn’t necessarily always true.

In fact, it’s become increasingly common to live alone after the age of 50 and, sometimes, that solitude is chosen voluntarily. A recent report by Bowling Green State University in Ohio (USA) claimed that the proportion of adults living alone is increasing every year. It’s especially evident among those born after 1960.

Decades ago, those who divorced or separated or were widowed used to end up living with another person. Now, they’re more likely to choose to live alone. Something is changing in our society that isn’t affecting everyone in the same way.

There are those who live their single life in a full and enriching way, while others are weighed down by loneliness and run the risk of drifting into states of emotional vulnerability.

“During the past half-century, our species has embarked on a remarkable social experiment. For the first time in human history, great numbers of people – at all ages, in all places, of every political persuasion – have begun settling down as singletons.”

-Eric Klinenberg-

Alone, but with good social connections: the key to well-being

Eric Klinenberg is a sociologist who’s addressed the issue of singleness and loneliness in his book, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. In this interesting work, he brings us the testimony of dozens of people who live alone. Many of them, including those of advanced age, show good rates of mental health and have enriching lifestyles. Furthermore, they’re deeply involved in the social life of their cities.

Living alone after 50 is an increasingly evident phenomenon in Western countries. This sector of the population is extremely dynamic and they need to relate to others. They’re active people who’ve reformulated their purposes, goals, and vision of life.

The key to this psychological flourishing is linked to their social connections. Being alone isn’t always synonymous with isolation. In these cases, they have contact with family members and focus on their friendships.

Single people or people who choose to live alone continue to be weighed down by too many stereotypes that must be deactivated.

When living alone after 50 hurts

Living alone is an act that a large part of our society freely chooses. That said, there are others who, due to various circumstances, see their empty house as a threat. They suffer anguish, have voids in their life that they don’t know how to fill, and suffer numerous difficulties on a daily basis. This is a reality that shouldn’t be neglected or set aside.

Research conducted by the Erasmus University of Rotterdam claims that there are different types of loneliness and one of them is clearly harmful to physical and mental well-being. They state that living alone after the age of 50 isn’t positive for those who don’t have any social support.

There are those who, after a complicated divorce or separation, are still dealing with a great deal of unresolved hurt. Furthermore, there’s the fact of the economic disadvantage of living alone, and the risk of exclusion that it entails for many people.

Older women happy to live alone after 50
Friendships have a decisive value at any stage of life.

Middle age: a sector of the population in constant change

An individual may choose to live alone beyond the age of 50, but they won’t choose to be disconnected from their social environment. As we mentioned earlier, middle age is becoming blurred and giving shape to a new stage. One in which the individual reformulates many areas of their existence and seeks new professional, emotional, and vital goals.

Middle age is no longer seen as the period in which an individual looked to their retirement while ascending to positions of greater responsibility in their work. Nowadays, it’s common for them to change jobs and even leave a marriage behind. Perhaps we should pay more attention to this sector of our society so we can offer them the support they need in the face of these changes.

Not everyone handles these challenging processes in the same way. It’s true that new opportunities may open up on the horizon, but there are those who view being alone as a threat. Therefore, we must be sensitive and give support and strategies to all those who restart their lives at this stage of life.

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  • Djundeva M, Dykstra PA, Fokkema T. Is Living Alone “Aging Alone”? Solitary Living, Network Types, and Well-Being. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2019 Oct 4;74(8):1406-1415. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gby119. PMID: 30312447; PMCID: PMC6777768.
  • Klinenberg, Eric (2010) Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. Penguin Books
  • Wiborg, Corrine E., “FP-22-14 Single and Living Alone in Midlife, 2021” (2022). National Center for Family and Marriage Research Family Profiles. 283. https://scholarworks.bgsu.edu/ncfmr_family_profiles/283