Eric Klinenberg's 2012 book "Going Solo" is a fascinating read from a sociological perspective. This reporter has observed the growing number of people living alone over the past few decades. One segment of society that perhaps is most likely to live alone are seniors. As the baby-boom generation ages no doubt issues about the right to stay in one's home, etc. will be more in focus in the coming years.
What impact that will have in the face of our current recession economy? Who really knows. Yet, Klinenberg provides a very thorough investigation into the subject of living alone or as he calls it, "The Singletons."
The New York University professor graciously responding to this reporter's questions recently. He clarified that "living alone doesn't mean being alone." When I asked how does the near future look- especially in this recession economy? Doesn't people pulling resources together (like sharing living expenses) help them to survive better? Or is that idea now out of date? He replied "on the contrary, singletons share with each other."
As Sociology professor and an award-winning autnor of two books he doesn't see the rise in the trend as all negative. "They ('Singletons') will continue to do so regardless of what happens with the economy," he said. Sharing is an essential human trait and quality and it is necessary for survival.
Klinenberg cites that there were four significant changes that occurred that helped to expand individualism which lead to more people living alone. They are: Women's Lib Movement, Mass media, increased urbanization and advances in aging and longevity.
"Of these, I'd say the rise of women's status is the most important," he said. "You can tell by looking at Saudi Arabia, for example, where there is great wealth, big cities, new technologies, and great longevity - but very little women's independence. Hardly anyone there lives alone," Klinenberg said.
This reporter also pointed out the fact that much of the diet and health issues of so many people is because of a decline in the family meal. Some researchers even point out that much of the social skills one attains and maintains revolves around daily family routines. And, that living alone might only add to that negative aspect.
"I write about cooking alone in the book," said Klinenberg "It's a skill one has to learn, and it doesn't come easily, but 'singletons' who learn to do it come to enjoy it quite a lot," he said.
What is striking to this reporter most that Klinenberg points out is the fact that living alone is a reality. And even more important is that this reality that baby-boomers must confront quickly if their standard of living is to be maintained. He notes that this is where baby-boomers will have to use their political savvy. Affordable housing is an issue and to provided affordable "assisted living" type of housing will require even more planning and preparation than what is at present.
This of course has this reporter a bit worried. Because, if one looks at the anticipated population census projections, more and more people will be living past 80 and reaching 100. Who will be able to meet this need when it becomes full-blown?
As Klinenberg mentions, Japan is facing a rapidly growing population of aging people as more and more are living longer. They are looking to robotic technology as a possible way to meet the needs of elderly people. Will scientists here in the USA do the same? Would that be something for the younger generations to work on in their quest for greater and more applied uses of technology?
This reporter takes a moment and reflects further on Klinenberg's outlook and realizes that we are indeed entering into a "brave new world" of tomorrow and who knows what the quality of life will be for those in their "golden years?"
"Going Solo - the Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone," is reaching out to the public to get this issue moving along. It is this reporter's hope that someone in positions of influence is listening.