Friends Play a Key Role in the Lives of an Increasing Demographic of Women Living Solo

By Eshbaugh, Elaine M. | Aging Today, July/August 2012 | Go to article overview

Friends Play a Key Role in the Lives of an Increasing Demographic of Women Living Solo


Eshbaugh, Elaine M., Aging Today


According to 2010 U.S. Census data, more than 25 percent of all households consist of one person living alone, and many of these households are made up of older persons. Among individuals older than 65, women are more likely to live alone than men- a demographic occurring mainly because of women's increased life expectancy, and the tendency for women to marry (and outlive) an older male spouse.

These elderly women face the potential of social isolation and need services that encourage social connection.

My motivation to study this population is personal. About 10 years ago, my grandfather passed away, leaving my 75-year-old grandmother to live by herself for the first time in her life. I assumed my grandmother would be socially isolated as a new widow, and I made a vow to check in often.

However, she was rarely home to take my calls. She was out with friends, pursuing hobbies and attending social events. Although she was grieving, she enjoyed her newfound freedom and appreciated the independence after many years spent caregiving.

Measuring Loneliness and Social Support

My grandmother's adjustment to living alone did not fit with the research I was reading as a doctoral student, so my idea for a mixed-methods study was born. In 2007, 1 set out to study depression, loneliness and social support among women who were ages 65 or older (mean age = 77 years; age range 65-93 years) and lived alone. Most of these 53 women were widows, and few had lived alone before their husbands died.

As I compiled the study data, I became fascinated with the diversity of their perceptions. One woman told me diat she missed her husband but enjoyed living alone because she could eat cereal for dinner every night. But not all interviews were so positive: one woman told me she loathed her home's quiet and often played three TVs at once to avoid facing the solitude.

However, less than 25 percent of participants indicated more than low levels of loneliness, as measured by the UCLA Scale of Loneliness (www.tactileint.com/ por tfolio/uclalone. html). The sample showed tremendous heterogeneity in loneliness. What was different about the women who were resilient to loneliness?

The Importance of Friendship

My original hypothesis supposed that a lack of friends would be more important as a predictor of loneliness for women who did not have family nearby than for those who did.

However, friends turned out to be more important for older adult women living alone than I had thought, regardless of these elders' proximity to family. Women who reported having close friends living within 50 miles said they were more important in preventing loneliness than was their family- whether or not the women's family lived locally. The number of family members living within 50 miles was not a significant predictor of loneliness or the lack thereof.

According to a 2009 article in The New York Times, older people prefer "intimacy at a distance" with their families. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Friends Play a Key Role in the Lives of an Increasing Demographic of Women Living Solo
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.