How to Thrive When Aging Alone

by Carol Marak

I began to think about aging alone after caring for my parents. My mother struggled with heart problems, while my father lived with Alzheimer’s disease. Watching their decline was heartbreaking. It was close to one year after dad’s passing when the question hit me: “Who will care for me?”

That was 10 years ago. Today, I’m 65.

The U.S. Census Bureau tells us more than 27 percent of people age 65 and over live alone. One reason is because baby boomers have the highest divorce rate and lowest number of children, and as they turn 65, the numbers of those living alone escalate.

There are thousands of us on our own, and we are in good company. In my “elder orphan” Facebook group, we have over 4,000 members. We face similar challenges, like finding help after surgery or if we’re sick, affordable housing, public transportation, social engagement, isolation, and choosing a health care proxy.

The most affordable living arrangements place us in the suburbs, far from convenient shopping and accessible public transit. It can be stressful, but being fearful exacerbates the problems and leaves us disempowered.

I try to maintain a positive view of being alone. If I feel lonely, I call someone or visit a sibling or friend, have lunch or dinner out, visit the library or attend a class, or join a Meetup group. Other things that help mitigate the fear of being alone:

  • Being clear about how I want to live, and what compromises I’m open to, outlines the aging alone strategy. Other things that affect my well-being are having personal space and loving what I do for a living. Otherwise, it would be meaningless.
Think about the times you weren’t thriving. What was missing? And what did you do to cope? For me, back in 2008, I wanted to write about family caregiving and older adult issues, and to be recognized as an advocate in the area of aging. It took years of blogging, writing web copy and building my personal brand. Now, nine years later, I’m closer to my dreams.


  • Understanding my needs allows me to live genuinely in a life that’s mine — and it gives me confidence, strength and resilience. It took years to appreciate my accomplishments and to trust myself. It was easier to be a people pleaser and be indirect about things I wanted; often, I felt I did not deserve my dreams. Caring about what happens in the future is what carried me through the hard times and struggles.
Push for what is important to you. Be patient and don’t make demands. Ask for what you want but give to yourself first; don’t rely on another person to make you happy. A friend once told me, “A man is not a plan!” Funny, right? But how many of us hold out for a partner to be the knight in shining armor or a nurse with a purse?


  • Forgiving myself is essential. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that we all make mistakes. But if I spend too much time dwelling on the stupid things I’ve done, it takes my energy and lethargy settles in. So I forgive myself. The act itself turns life around and lets me head to where I want to be in the future.
Mistakes don’t make you or me right or wrong — they make us human. When disturbing thoughts of your mistakes disrupt your peace of mind, take a moment to relax and breathe. Allow the disturbance to move through and release once and for all.


  • Honoring my individuality and the traits that make me who I am is life-altering. Over the years, I’ve learned to accept faults, weaknesses and dysfunctions. By doing so, I’ve learned patience, trust and unconditional love. I don’t dwell on what’s wrong. In celebrating my differences, I choose to be around people who accept me for who I am.
Are you ready to accept and celebrate you? Doing so will change your life. When an individual gives up criticism, a sense of compassion fills the gap. It’s remarkable.


Learning my lessons has me looking forward to the future. It’s my hope and wish that you find courage and resolve as you look to make being alone a blessing.

Carol Marak earned a Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from the USC Davis School of Gerontology and advocates on behalf of older adults and family caregivers. She helped her parents adjust to growing old. Today, she deals with her own aging challenges and advocates for seniors living alone without support from a household member. Carol founded the Elder Orphan Facebook group.

14 Responses to “How to Thrive When Aging Alone”

May 02, 2017 at 12:17 pm, Carol Marak said:

Thank you for reading the article about aging alone and planning life so that one thrives. If you have questions, let’s dialog here. My best.


May 11, 2017 at 1:17 pm, Pamela Minor said:

> Great article and so glad I found this page!


May 17, 2017 at 9:42 am, Carol Marak said:

> happy that you found the article useful — it’s hard to age alone, and so important to have connections and find support.


June 06, 2017 at 10:50 am, Linda Chavez said:

> A great way to age alone is through a Village. There are more than 200 Villages across the US that provide social events, transportation, help around the house, technical support for your phone or computer, and much more.


May 11, 2017 at 1:16 pm, Liz Spears said:

Thanks for the great article, Carol! Welcome to the DFW area, and I look forward to meeting up with you for lunch soon.


May 12, 2017 at 11:23 pm, Patricia Bell said:

Your article is just what I needed. Thanks!


May 17, 2017 at 2:41 pm, Deb Vorndran said:

What a mind blowing concept: “aging alone as a strategy” not something to fear. Great stuff!


June 03, 2017 at 7:30 pm, Jude said:

Thank you for your help with seniors. I did not realize that when a person ages, chances are that person might be treated as a leper. Remember human race someday you will be old, if you make it that long. Treat people as you want to be treated and KARMA will take care of the rest.


February 24, 2018 at 7:46 am, Lisa said:

> awesome Jude, how encouraging. We must stick together and age with great respect. Respect for ourselves and others as well as respect for what living makes possible. Don’t stop believing!


June 06, 2017 at 10:54 am, Linda Chavez said:

Throughout the US there are Villages that can help with isolation. Villages provide social events, transportation, help around the house, technical help with phones or computers and much more. Go on-line to the Village to Village Network to find a Village near you.


June 08, 2017 at 9:48 am, Joanne said:

Found your artical well worth the reading Carol and thank you for sharing.
It resonates with me that “strategy and mindset” are areas needed to be evaluated , which seems woven in your artical, for us to embrace the aging process without feeling victimized. Would love to dialogue and coach with others on this path.
Warm wishes.


June 16, 2017 at 3:31 pm, Beverly Knowles said:

aging alone without anyone close who is a friend – when you are in isolation what do you do? No friends, no family, how do you cope.


January 14, 2018 at 6:04 pm, Melissa said:

I sometimes feel like I am the only one living alone. Your article was a pleasant reminder, that I am really not alone.


February 01, 2018 at 8:38 pm, Samantha Stein said:

This is a very inspiring article, Carol! Most people have a negative view on growing old alone. But your article has provided insights that can touch and turn around someone’s life by bringing in positive views on being alone. We included your article in our monthly digest about different strategies on growing old and alone that actually works. You can read our feature here:


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