Living Alone after a Spouse Dies

Living Alone after a Spouse Dies:

More Social Interaction and Less Isolation

by A. Scott White, CFP®, ChFC®, CLU®
President, Scott White Advisors

In almost 30 years as a financial advisor, I’ve worked with families and couples—and with widows and widowers who are alone after their spouse dies. I’ve helped those families deal with the financial decisions that surviving spouses face. I’ve seen the grieving process up close, as financial advisors frequently do. And I’ve assisted those surviving spouses as they sort through decisions about their lifestyle.

For seniors who are alone, I encourage them to consider assisted living, because those communities offer more stimulation and less isolation than living by themselves. While living alone does not inevitably lead to social isolation, it is a predisposing factor, and social contacts tend to decrease as we age. But some widows and widowers don’t want to consider a group living arrangement of any kind. They want to remain in their homes, alone, for as long as their health will allow.

Reports suggest that approximately one in three Americans 65 and older are living alone.1 According to the National Institute on Aging, several research studies have shown a strong correlation between social interaction and health and well-being among older adults and have suggested that social isolation may have significant adverse effects for older adults.2 In fact, social relationships are consistently associated with lower levels of age-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer, as well as depression.

When older adults choose to live alone, it’s important to create adequate social interaction and stimulation. Volunteering can reduce social isolation, and research shows that volunteering confers mental and physical health benefits for those doing the helping.3 Locally, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Lee County links the skills of the volunteers with identified community needs. For more information or to volunteer, call 239-275-1881. United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Counties serves our local community by connecting volunteers with nonprofits. For more information call 239-433-7567. Or you may prefer to volunteer for your favorite cause. If so, contact that organization directly and ask to speak with their volunteer coordinator.

The Dr. Piper Center for Social Services, Inc. seeks to enhance the social and economic well-being of those 55+ individuals who reside in Southwest Florida and make a positive impact in the lives of frail elderly, at risk youth, special needs children and our communities. This organization unites the community by matching senior volunteers with those most in need of service. For more information call 239-332-5346 or visit www.drpipercenter.org.

If you live alone or know an older adult who does, take advantage of the resources in our area that help to reduce social isolation.

1Orlando Sentinel, 6 Steps to Help Reduce Senior Isolation and Improve Social Interaction, January 23, 2017
2National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nia.nih.gov/about/living-long-well-21st-century-strategic-directions-research-aging/research-suggests-positive 
3Senior Living Blog, 5 Reasons Seniors Should Volunteer Their Time,  https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/9-26-14-reasons-seniors-volunteer/