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Know Your Seniors — Especially the Single Ones!

May is Older Americans month. To mark the occasion, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services compiled a profile of older Americans. Here are some of their findings, with an emphasis on the results relevant to seniors who are not married.

Women outlive men. Among people 65 and older, there are 5.7 million more women than men.

There are big differences in marital status between women and men.

  • Fewer than half of older women (46%) are married, but 70% of the men are married.
  • 33% of older women are widowed, compared to 11% of older men.
  • 16% of older women and 14% of older men are divorced or separated or have a spouse who is absent.
  • 6% of women 65 and older and 5% of men have been single all their lives

Most seniors who are not married are living alone.

  • 20% of older men live alone, 8% live with someone other than a spouse, and the others (72%) live with a spouse or partner
  • 34% of older women (65 and older) live alone, 18% live with someone other than a spouse, and the others (48%) live with a spouse or partner
  • Among women even older (75 and up), nearly half of those who are not institutionalized (45%) are living alone
  • Only 3% of people 65 and older are living in institutions – mostly nursing homes. For people 85 and older, that number increases to 9%

Thanks to Social Security, most seniors have some income. But for single people, Social Security is much more likely to comprise almost all of their income.

  • Social Security accounts for 90% or more of the income of 23% of married couples and 43% of seniors who are not married
  • More than 3 times as many seniors who live alone are living in poverty, compared to those who are living with families: 17.3% vs. 5.3%
  • The median income across all people 65 and older is $23,394

Who spends more than one-third of their income on housing?

  • 36% of seniors who are homeowners
  • 78% of seniors who are renting

Still working: 19.3% of Americans 65 and older are working or actively looking for work

Getting more educated: 30% of seniors have a bachelor’s degree or higher

In some ways, seniors are quite healthy

  • Only 9% are smokers
  • 8% say they drink too much
  • Fewer than 3% had experienced serious psychological distress in the past 30 days


  • Most have at least one chronic health condition, with hypertension leading the list (58%)
  • Fewer than half (45%) rate their health as excellent or very good, compared to 64% for adults 64 and younger
  • 35% have a disability; the most common one is difficulty with walking

Thanks to Medicare, nearly all American seniors have some health insurance coverage. Still, their average annual out-of-pocket health care expenses amount to nearly $6,000.

Photo by moyerphotos

Know Your Seniors — Especially the Single Ones!

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single," Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2018). Know Your Seniors — Especially the Single Ones!. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 19, 2019, from


Last updated: 19 May 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 May 2018
Published on All rights reserved.