Odd Man Out – Growing Older Alone
Living alone most of my adult life, I was mindful of feeling displaced. In gatherings at church, at parties, restaurants, and other social engagements, I am usually the person at a table for one. It’s a common sensation for most solos because it generates the feeling of being a third wheel when in large groups of people with spouses or dates.
Sometimes the reactions from them revealed discomfort when in my presence. It felt like I didn’t belong or wasn’t normal, and sometimes they physically pulled back, as if I was contagious. At times I wanted to blurt out, “I won’t steal your man…or singlehood isn’t contagious, don’t worry, you won’t end up alone if you get too close.”
Seems silly, right? But honestly, it’s how most singles feel from time to time. Those of us aging alone are the odd person out.
Sunday’s Sore Reminder
No other day of the week is like Sunday afternoons. The lazy day of rest used to turn into a day from hell for me.
It’s funny, in a weird way, that many solos are the loneliest on this day. It’s like a dark cloud out of the south stirred up and headed north—in my direction. It knew exactly where to find me. And when it did, a low ebb of depression and loneliness anchored in my soul till it was time for bed. Every week. Every Sunday. For years.
A few months ago, in conversation with a colleague, also single, and close to my age, asked me, “Do you ever feel lonely on Sundays?” I knew exactly how she felt. I told her, “Oh, indeed, Sundays were my lonely companion for years. But not so much anymore.”
I often wondered why that day brought me so much sadness. Maybe it’s because growing up in a family, Sunday’s were our special day: go to church, have lunch together, play games, then do fun stuff or take a short drive to the country to visit aunts and uncles. It was family time. And if a person is growing older alone—there’s a void.
Sunday Blues, a Phenomenon
A poll on Monster.com found that 78 percent of U.S. workers feel Sunday night sadness. Fifty-nine 59 percent of those surveyed reported that their Sunday night depressions got “really bad”.
Another poll pointed out that for most of us, Sunday night stress begins at 4:13 p.m. These are the last moments of the weekend. (I’d argue the time but who’s keeping track?)
And nearly 100 years ago, psychologist Sandor Ferenczi wrote a scholarly paper called “Sunday Neuroses,” which noted his patients often felt their worst, and recalled their most painful memories, on the last day of the weekend.
Dr. Asim Shah, professor, and executive vice chair in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor, explained why he thought a person feels sad or restless on Sundays. He said,
“I think one of the simplest reasons people feel sad on Sundays is because they were enjoying the weekend and now it is over. Over the weekend, people go out more and enjoy themselves. They may go out to eat, go to a concert, have a picnic or meet up with friends. They are doing a lot of extra activities on the weekend that they may not be doing throughout the week,”.
I understand Sunday blues are not just for singles. But here again, I argue, “It’s different for single people.” When in a relationship, Sundays had little effect on how I felt. For me, when I was sad on a Sunday it was because I was growing older alone. Maybe I missed my family.
April 15th: Another Punch in the Gut
There’s the extra punch in the gut for being single on tax day. It’s the day we’re reminded that we must pay the tax collector more because we live alone. I never understood why the government penalizes single people on April 15th, but it’s a fact. The single deduction is minimal compared to that for married couples.
It also makes me angry knowing I have almost as many bills to pay as couples do but only one paycheck. Many solos over the years, asked, “don’t we matter as much as people with partners?”
As an individual, everything falls on our shoulders. We bring home one paycheck for almost the same number of expenses: retirement funds, mortgages, car payments, utilities, entertainment, home and car insurance, college debt, life insurance, food, vacations, and other incidentals. Okay, granted, singles may eat less and pay a smaller college loan, but comparing apples to apples, we come pretty close.
H&R Block confirms my factual observations about solos having fewer tax advantages than couples.
The Case for Joy in Singlehood
Facing reality today, things are a bit different for me since I let go of my many complaints and learned to appreciate my solo status and living alone. One could make the argument that perhaps back then, years ago, I wasn’t happy about being alone. But today, I choose to see singlehood as a blessing.
Blessings of Singlehood
We learn to look inside for encouragement and support.on our relationship with self and change the critical inner voice to a more compassionate one.
Focus on What Drives Our Passion
Being single makes room for a person to learn more about themselves. This provides more clarity around who they are and leaning into enjoying their own company.
When you figure out what you really want, and how you want to live your life, it’s on you to hold yourself accountable.
While romantic relationships are often prioritized, strong friendships are undeniably important.
You Call the Shots
No matter the decision. It’s yours to have.
Being single is a part of life that can serve as an inner growth catalyst.
Contentment With Growing Older Alone is a Journey
Life is, and has been, on an upward spiral—I’ve made peace with Sundays but not with the IRS. However, April 15th holds little power over me and that’s good. Actually, not much does! I am no longer feeling invisible as a single; in fact, I feel complete and intend to hold that space for the rest of this gal’s life! If you’re single, I hope the same for you!!
Another article from Carol Marak: Do you worry about aging alone? How (and Why) to Cultivate a Family of Choice
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carol Marak is a “Solo Advisor” and a published author of “Solo and Smart” She launched the Solo and Smart YouTube channel offering achievable tips when growing older alone. Carol founded the Elder Orphan Facebook Group and the Dallas Aging Alone Facebook Group in 2016. She also writes for prestigious publications such as NextAvenue.com and New York Times Magazine. Learn about her work at CarolMarak.com.
Resources for Adults Aging Alone
For adults growing older alone, there are numerous resources available to help address various aspects of their well-being, including social support, health care, financial planning, and more. Here are some valuable resources:
AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people over the age of 50 navigate the challenges of aging. They offer a wide range of resources, including information on health, finances, and social engagement. Their website provides articles, tools, and online communities for older adults.
NCOA is a nonprofit organization that advocates for older adults and provides resources to help them age with dignity and financial security. They offer assistance with benefits, advocacy, and programs that promote healthy aging.
The Eldercare Locator is a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging. It helps older adults and their families find local resources and services for seniors. They can provide information on home-based services, transportation options, and social activities.
Meetup is a platform where individuals can find and build local communities based on shared interests. Older adults can find meetup groups centered around hobbies, social activities, or specific topics, helping them connect with like-minded individuals.
Senior Corps is a program by the Corporation for National and Community Service that connects adults over the age of 55 with volunteer opportunities in their communities. Volunteering can provide a sense of purpose and social connection.
SilverSneakers is a fitness program designed for older adults, typically offered as a benefit through some Medicare plans. It provides access to various fitness facilities and classes, promoting physical health and social engagement.
BenefitsCheckUp is a service by the National Council on Aging that helps older adults identify benefits and assistance programs they may be eligible for based on their income and location.
Many communities have senior centers that offer a variety of services and activities for older adults, such as fitness classes, educational programs, social events, and meal programs. These centers can be excellent places to meet other seniors and engage in various activities.
Local Support Groups
Many communities have support groups for specific needs or interests, such as caregiver support, grief counseling, or specific health conditions. These groups can provide a sense of community and understanding.
Online Forums and Communities
Various online forums and communities cater to older adults, offering opportunities to connect, share experiences, and find support. Websites like Reddit and Facebook often have groups dedicated to senior interests.
Remember that local resources and support systems may vary, so it’s essential to explore options available in your specific area. Additionally, don’t hesitate to seek help from local community centers, religious organizations, or social service agencies, as they may have additional resources and assistance for aging adults.
originally posted September 1, 2021
updated July 4, 2023