Aging Alone in Dallas
In a New York Time article last week, reporters Dana Goldstein and Robert Gebeloff highlighted one of the country’s fastest-growing demographic groups: people 50 and older who live alone.
While this is a nationwide trend, The Senior Source only has to look to our local statistics and our first-hand experience with our older adult clients to see the same demographic change. We also witness the societal changes from this phenomenon[SM1] [AG2] and its associated benefits and challenges.
What are the local statistics?
Nationally, Goldstein and Gebeloff quoted this statistic, “In 1960, just 13% of American households had a single occupant. But that figure has risen steadily, and today is approaching 30%.” In Dallas County, we see the same trend. According to the 2020 census, nearly 26% of adults over 65 are living alone, and the vast majority of those are women.
What has caused the change?
Many societal changes have driven this shift, including women having professional, marital, and financial freedom that was not available for past generations. Modern technology also has made living alone easier today than in the past. We don’t need roommates to socialize and connect with others when we have Zoom to talk to friends and family remotely. In fact, during COVID lockdowns, the Senior Source staff trained our clients and volunteers how to use Zoom so those living alone could feel connected.
“When we talk about older adults today, we think about ages 55 to 105, instead of stopping at 85,” said President and CEO Stacey Malcolmson. “Modern seniors can easily live 30 years past retirement age, and often people don’t plan to live that long and alone. We are helping retirees develop financial and caregiving plans into very advanced ages.”
What are the benefits and challenges for older adults?
For some seniors, living alone has benefits. They highly value their independence and enjoy the freedom to live exactly as they want. However, research proves that people aging alone experience worse physical and mental health outcomes and shorter life spans. According to the National Institute on Aging, prolonged isolation can be as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. The Senior Source sees this first-hand in our clients and volunteers.
“Here in Dallas, aging alone is difficult,” Malcolmson added. “Our car culture and scarcity of community spaces unfortunately contribute to older adults feeling isolated. However, we are happy to see Dallas’ recent efforts to create connection points for all to enjoy such as new parks.”
Steve Benton, a financial counselor in The Senior Source’s Elder Financial Safety Center, works with many solo older adults to set budgets. “I find that the expression, “two can live cheaper than one” is definitely true as there is only one rent or mortgage payment, one electric bill, one gas bill,” he said. “When the household has two incomes, it is easier to pay these items and have enough left over for everything else.”
How can The Senior Source help?
One of the most significant ways that The Senior Source can help is by ensuring financial security for older adults. Our Elder Financial Safety Center is a trusted place for older adults and their loved ones to get expert, professional, and unbiased financial guidance and employment assistance.
Many of our programs also provide social connections that mitigate the negative mental and physical effects of loneliness. Our volunteer opportunities help older adults stay engaged in their communities. Our technology classes allow older adults to learn modern ways to stay connected with family and friends through computers.
“We are the one-stop shop for aging support in Dallas,” Malcolmson promises. “We want to ensure that everyone has a plan to live comfortably for 30 years past retirement age.”
The Senior Source of Dallas , https://theseniorsource.org/ 214