Sunday, November 29, 2009

No one is an island but...

One of the many nice things about visiting my parents is that they still subscribe to an actual, physical newspaper. So every morning, I come downstairs and read the paper at the kitchen table while drinking my coffee, usually with my mom. At home, I read the paper online and I usually just skim the news headlines, only clicking on the full articles that look the most interesting; with the physical paper, I read almost all the sections, including columns and features like Dear Abby (who is really the most incredibly judgmental woman!). I'm not sure why I enjoy it so much but I do.

Anyway, this morning, the San Jose Mercury had a front-page story about a group of elderly Silicon Valley residents, and how they are embracing 'old age'. Much about their stories is inspiring and certainly makes me feel like I've got no excuse at all to be as much of a sloth as I am. But the main reason I'm sharing this here is because there's one section in particular about how many seniors are 'going it alone':
As much as she has missed her husband since he died, Connolly has fully embraced independent living. "I was always taking care of people," she says. "My husband was the absent-minded professor. There were very few times in my life when I just had to think about me, and now I've gotten used to that and it's kind of nice. I can enjoy doing what I want to do without even considering another person. And I'm fine with that."

Her four grown children sometimes are able to show up around the holidays, and sometimes they aren't. "My kids live in four different time zones, and my daughter who lives in San Francisco might as well live in Hawaii because she's so busy," Connolly says. "You can't count on your kids for company or companionship. They have their lives, so I don't depend on them. You need people your own age you can be with."

The next time someone asks you why you don't have kids and alludes to kids taking care of you when you're older, show them this! There was also something that made me think about how the happily-single community seems to focus more on women than men:

So far, that has not involved pairing off with any of the Saratoga center's male residents, who are in such scarce supply they are prized as companions. "It's harder for single women than single men because we haven't been brought up to be that bold and aggressive," Connolly says. "I've found some very nice women friends here that I can do most things with. I can't go dancing anymore, but you can't do everything."

Connolly actually has plenty of company in her solitude. According to a Census Bureau survey in 2003, three-quarters of the Americans 65 or older and living alone were women. Men, however, seek a significant other. At 85 and older, more than half the men were still living with a spouse — frequently not their first one — while only one-eighth of the women had a husband.

The reality is that even if you're in a great relationship, with a wonderful partner, kids, etc., it's important to be OK with being on your own as well, because you never know what's going to happen and where you'll end up in the future. The only guarantee we really have is that the one person you will ALWAYS have for support is YOU.

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