Getting out and about is important in retirement, especially when you lose the social aspect of working. But what if there’s just you, and it means going to the theatre alone, dining at a table for one or travelling solo?
Society tells us these types of activities can only be enjoyed with a companion. But one in four Australians currently live alone1 and this figure has been rising steadily for over 60 years, going from 8% in 1946 to 24% in 2011.
So can we actually enjoy doing sociable things on our own?
Enjoying your own company at all ages
Research released in 20152 suggests we shouldn’t be so quick to give into our fears of how being alone in a social setting might be viewed by others. The researchers, Rebecca Ratner and Rebecca Hamilton, of the universities of Maryland and Georgetown, believe people should be bolder about doing things alone. They might discover they enjoy the activity more than they expected to.
They carried out a small test to see whether our fear of doing some activities alone was justified. They organised for university students to be invited to visit a nearby art gallery for five or ten minutes. Some students were with friends, others were on their own.
They were all asked beforehand to rate how much fun they expected to have. After their visit they were asked to rate how much fun they actually had. Those who were alone expected to have a worse time than those who went with their friends. But it turned out everyone enjoyed it just as much!
You could argue that it’s easier for a group of university students to enjoy a trip to a gallery just as much alone as with friends, than experiencing things on your own later in life. But it doesn’t have to be the case.
There are many reasons why we may end up being alone as we get older: in the 60-69 year age group, divorce or separation are the main reasons. This continues for men in their 70s but for women of this age, the main reason is the death of a partner.
Getting out and about to meet new people
If you’ve always lived alone, then you’ve probably learnt to embrace a full and well-rounded life on your own. It seems travel is a popular way to embrace this. In fact, 40% of solo travellers are in the plus 50 age bracket3.
But if this is new territory, or you’ve never felt comfortable going it alone, there are plenty of ways you can meet new people. As well as travel, you can connect with others via volunteering, mentoring or joining community groups.
Meetup, for example, has a range of interest groups you can join to make it easy to find like-minded people in your local area.
Want to know more?
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Managing your money in retirement
This online learning module can help you budget for the short and long-term.