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Senior singles are better off

a happy looking senior man
Posted May 8, 2019

Controversial pop psychologist Jordan Petersen caused a media storm when he was in New Zealand, telling Hayley Holt that ‘life without a family after 45 gets pretty lonesome’. But psychologist Bella DePaul says that senior singles are actually more resilient later in life.

Recent studies show that of the three categories of ‘unmarried’ people (lifelong, divorced and widowed singles), lifelong singles had the most positive outlook—reporting the lowest levels of what social scientists call ‘single-strain’ later in life.

Hundreds of ‘unmarried’ seniors (65+) were asked to comment on these five facets of senior life:

1.    It’s more difficult for you to have an active social life
2.    You don’t have the intimacy with another person that you would like
3.    The future looks more difficult
4.    There’s no one to take care of you if you ever need it
5.    There’s no one to share day-to-day experiences.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the widowed seniors reported the most strain, having primarily relied on their spouse to take up the slack in these areas. Lifelong singles, however, tended to have a much broader spectrum of supportive relationships. DePaulo explains that, ‘Lifelong single people never leaned on a spouse. They have been looking to other people, such as friends and relatives, their whole life.’

This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that singles ‘have no one to look after them when they are old’. In fact, the studies showed that staying single greatly increases an individual’s capacity to accumulate skills and resources helpful in later life—such as autonomy, self-reliance, and the mastery of a broad range of skills. They have their freedom—their autonomy and self-reliance,’ DePaulo affirms.

Taking a good hard look, then, at the extent—or lack—of our supportive friendships and networks is something we could all give attention to, regardless of our age or marital status. Noticing the gaps in the lives of others is also an invitation each of us could respond to.

Churches, of course, are one of the enduring bastions that have the very real potential to not only reduce ‘single-strain’ later in life for all, but enrich each of our lives now. The question is, are we helping enhance relationships in our faith communities, or are we only consuming its benefits? Is our pursuit for connection focused on others, or on ourselves?

We must understand that ‘life in Christ’ together will never be all we desire (and need) if we’re only in it to meet our own needs. But choosing to be intentional and authentic so that the entire Body of Christ benefits is a great way to reflect Jesus’ command to ‘love one another’.

Lifelong singles who have maintained broader relationships are a great example. They have a lot to offer of strengthening our faith communities, so that all are looked after in later life!atives, their whole life.’

This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that singles ‘have no one to look after them when they are old’. In fact, the studies showed that staying single greatly increases an individual’s capacity to accumulate skills and resources helpful in later life—such as autonomy, self-reliance, and the mastery of a broad range of skills. They have their freedom—their autonomy and self-reliance,’ DePaulo affirms.

Taking a good hard look, then, at the extent—or lack—of our supportive friendships and networks is something we could all give attention to, regardless of our age or marital status. Noticing the gaps in the lives of others is also an invitation each of us could respond to.

Churches, of course, are one of the enduring bastions that have the very real potential to not only reduce ‘single-strain’ later in life for all, but enrich each of our lives now. The question is, are we helping enhance relationships in our faith communities, or are we only consuming its benefits? Is our pursuit for connection focused on others, or on ourselves?

We must understand that ‘life in Christ’ together will never be all we desire (and need) if we’re only in it to meet our own needs. But choosing to be intentional and authentic so that the entire Body of Christ benefits is a great way to reflect Jesus’ command to ‘love one another’.

Lifelong singles who have maintained broader relationships are a great example. They have a lot to offer of strengthening our faith communities, so that all are looked after in later life!