Originally created 10/17/00

Age old questions: Living alone doesn't have to be difficult for seniors



Q: Do you have any suggestions for those of us who are living alone for the first time during our "Golden Years"? - P.T., Augusta

A: The number of seniors living alone is on the rise. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of adults living alone has increased from 8 percent to 13 percent over the past 30 years.

For many seniors, the loss of a spouse results in a living situation that they have never dealt with before. This transition can be difficult for many, who now face loneliness, depression and a host of other emotions that accompany the grieving process.

Living alone for the first time brings up some practical concerns as well. Cooking for one, maintaining a secure environment and keeping strong relationships with others are some of the concerns faced by older adults who are living alone for the first time.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic offer several helpful hints for older adults on their own.

Stay connected. Don't forget to spend time with your neighbors, family and friends. If you can no longer drive, ask them to visit.

It is important that you set up a check-up schedule with family members or friends. Start a buddy calling system in which you call them every other day, and they call you on the alternate days.

Give important medical, financial, funeral, real estate and miscellaneous information to a trusted family member.

Keep physically active. Regular exercise will help keep you strong and will help promote better balance. One of the chief concerns for those who live alone is that they will fall and no one will be there to help them. Building better balance can help you avoid such situations.

Owning a pet also can help you adapt to living on your own. The responsibility of caring for a pet often helps reduce stress and anxiety. Pets make great companions also. They are always there to listen, and they never seem to complain!

Taking up a new hobby will not only help occupy your time, but it also will help keep your mind sharp. Check a newspaper for ideas, such as music lessons, painting and card playing groups - or begin a family-tree project.

If you are physically able, make travel a priority. Seeing new sites will help broaden your horizons, and you can make new friends when you travel in groups.

The Resource Center on Aging and other local senior groups offer many travel opportunities throughout the year. These are wonderful opportunities for you to meet people, many of whom are also living alone for the first time.

The Mayo Clinic suggests getting involved in the community by volunteering. It is estimated that nearly 14 million seniors volunteer in some capacity or another. Research has shown that by volunteering their time, these seniors seem to be happier and healthier. Check with hospitals, after-school programs, libraries and churches for additional information.

If you are over 65, you may qualify for reduced-rate or even free classes at a college or university. Going back to school can help keep you up-to-date on current events and help you build new relationships with people of all ages.

It is important for family members to closely monitor the behavior of their senior family members for signs of depression. An older person who demonstrates a loss of interest in favorite activities, has an irregular sleep cycle, feels worthless or loses or gains weight should see a mental health professional for help.

If you have a question or would like more information, please write to Shirley McIntosh, Resource Center on Aging, 2803 Wrightsboro Road, Suite 51, Augusta, GA 30909.