Why You Shouldn’t Age Alone

Why You Shouldn’t Age Alone

You know, I don’t know how we got the idea somehow that it’s good to grow old alone. Really, throughout human history, that’s almost never happened. Older people have been part of a larger social network, a part of a larger social group, and then something like American individualism got its hands on it, and created a country now in which about 95, 98% of older people say they want to age in place, in their own home. I will argue to you that almost all of those 98% are wrong.

In general, I believe that it’s better for older people to age in community. A real killer is the amount of social isolation and loneliness that affects older people. People become more lonely and that makes them less interested almost, less energetic, and that leads to more depression and so forth. It’s breaking that particular cycle that’s important. This is not just an issue identified by psychologists and sociologists. People are actually finding that isolation and loneliness affects your immune system. It affects your ability to fight illness. There’s an enormous mind-body connection there.

One thing that choosing a community to live in does, it solves that isolation problem. So one of the things I’m arguing and a number of my gerontological colleagues are arguing, yes, we have this value of aging on your own, but many, many more people can and should explore the idea of community, how they’ll maintain a community life in aging, and I argue that people ought to consider senior living options and they ought to consider them earlier. And I say that, again, not as a provider, but as a researcher who studies this kind of thing.