Singlehood, in the past, was something that was stigmatized for our senior population, but recent accounts from older single people and studies have shown that they are perfectly content with falling asleep each night in their own cozy bed.
Psychology Today analyzed a 2019 study titled, “The changing relationship between partnership status and loneliness: Effects related to aging and historical time,” published by The Journal of Gerontology, and found that not only were older people satisfied being single, but that that very satisfaction had increased over time.
The study took from a sample of just over 2,500 people, between the ages of 40 and 85, and interviewed and re-interviewed them every six years from 1996 to 2014. The study found that the single people’s satisfaction in life not only grew over time, but that, due to the progression of culture from the 20th to the 21st century, it was far more accepting to be comfortable in not wanting to pursue a relationship in their later years based on society’s fluctuating standards.
The study also suggested that the loneliness that someone might feel as they age may not even be in correlation with not having a romantic partner, rather, they depend more on family and friends to keep them engaged in personal relationships and avoiding loneliness.
This idea is exemplified in a 2021 Guardian article which saw various perspectives from single seniors who were content in being single.
One person they talked to was (then) 74-year-old Australian native Bruce Cowper, who valued his own self-esteem and friendships over what any romantic relationship could offer him at that point in his life.
“I’ve been through so many relationships [in the past] because I think I was looking for someone to make my life feel full and complete. And I just came to the conclusion that I was barking up the wrong tree,” he explained. “If I wanted to feel content and complete, it had to come from within me, rather than looking for it out there somewhere, or in someone else.”
“And I came to the conclusion that the best way to ruin a good friendship was to get into a romantic relationship and I’ve decided that friendships are more valuable to me,” he added. “I don’t want to wreck any more good friendships.”
Besides progressive thinking and recognizing true values in their lives as they grew older, the more obvious reason for the senior population to stay single was because they enjoyed living on their own terms, especially considering their ends were more near to them than they were far.
In the same Guardian article, Di Moloney, a 72-year-old Melbourne native said she was “successfully single” and learned the values of independence and being accountable for one’s self.
“Now, for many, many years, I’ve chosen to remain single,” she admitted. “You cook when you want to, eat food that you want to, have a glass of wine when you want to, you never get criticized by anybody in any way because you’ve only got yourself to blame if something goes wrong – there are a lot of advantages to being single.”
Lastly, many of these people were not always single. In fact, each person interviewed in the Guardian piece were either divorced or widowed. But speaking with Hella Life, sexologist and professor of sociology at the University of Washington, Dr. Pepper Schwartz, says that to try again in a new relationship once you’ve reached a certain age can be particularly difficult if you had endured a divorce or a death of a partner.
“When they get divorced or widowed or have been single later in life, the motivation to pair up and shake up their life is muted,” Schwartz explained. “And often, the conditions of past marriage were painful enough and difficult enough that they are loath to re-enter that fray.”
With all of this, it’s no wonder that older people are staying single. There’s no better time to do some self-reflecting, and especially no better time to finally do the things you’ve always wanted to do. So live it up grandma and grandpa! You deserve the right to live how you want!