Most research into the health of seniors living alone paints a picture of loneliness, social isolation and failing health but a new study finds that older adults who live alone may see things quite differently, rating their well-being as excellent.
A recent study, published in the Journal of Applied Gerontology, found that adults over the age of 65 who live alone were more likely to describe their health as being very good or excellent. The research findings are unclear if living with others is a result of serious health problems or loss of physical function or if a solitary lifestyle is linked with longer life.
Being required to care for yourself and your home independently could explain why many single seniors remain in good health but although older adults on their own may be more physically fit, their mental and emotional health may not be as robust. Seniors who live alone should pay close attention to maintaining social contacts and establishing a community support system.
According to the study of 41,603 seniors over the age of 65, women who live alone are more likely to report multiple health conditions despite describing their health as excellent or very good. Older men living alone reported fewer chronic health conditions yet were more likely to say their health was fair or poor.
What does it all mean? Perhaps just that our perception of health is subjective. Men may be feel they are unhealthy without a spouse taking care of them and could be more likely to withdraw socially. Studies have shown that women fair better after the loss of a spouse, in some cases taking better care of themselves both physically and emotionally once the burden of care-giving is lifted. Women are also more likely to form close social bonds that serve them well in older age.