Is Living Alone the New Normal During Retirement?

On CBS Sunday Morning this week, there was a report about the rise in people in the United States living alone. According to sociologist Eric Klinenberg, this shift in living status is the greatest social change of the last 60 years. Klinenberg states there are 32.7 million Americans who live alone. In 1950, only 4 million people were solo dwellers or less than 3 percent of the population. That number has grown to 32.7 million people or 10 percent of the population. According to Klinenberg, as many as 1 in 4 households are occupied by a person living alone.

In certain locations, the percentage rises dramatic. In Seattle, 43 percent of people live alone. In San Francisco the number is 40 percent, Denver is 40.4 percent and in Manhattan almost half of people are solo dwellers.

How are solo dweller homes arranged by age? One third of the single-person homes are over 65. Almost 50 percent are between 35 and 64. More women live alone than men and appear to be more comfortable living alone.

I remember stories about my mother moving from Iowa to Denver after World War II. She shared a small apartment with four other young women. Because of the war and depression, there wasn’t enough housing to accommodate young people. My parent’s first home was in a basement apartment of a retired couple. Plus, in the earlier part of the twentieth century, it was normal for multiple generations to live under the same roof.

As mobility increased, young people were more inclined to move away and not want to live with their parents. As parents aged, they were less likely to move in with their children. Finally, there is an increase in singlehood, resulting in more people living alone.

According to New Yorker Jeff Ragsdale, living alone is not a natural condition for humans. While people claim they love the freedom of solitude, it’s actually against our instincts.

I’ve only lived completely alone for less than six months when I was first separated from my first husband. It was a dreadful time in my life, made more difficult by loneliness and solitude. If I should find myself single again, I will find a way to live either with or next to others. As a strong introvert, living alone equates isolation. In my mind, that’s never a good thing.



  1. Christa King says:

    Living alone is not the same as loneliness, and does not mean that a person has withdrawn from the world. Isolation is very different from isolationism. I understand that some folks who live alone do withdraw from the world in unhealthy ways, but that is not true for all of us. I’d like to recommend two books: “Party of One” and “Quiet: The Power of Introverts.” Some of us need to be alone frequently or even most of the time.. I could definitely do with more isolation!


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