In the past half-century or so, solo living has become a demographic juggernaut. According to a United Nations report, around the world, 1-person households are now just as common as households comprised of just a couple, with no kids. And across Europe and North America, there are more households consisting of just one person than of couples and their children.
In too many ways, though, societies are experiencing “cultural lag”: they have not caught up with this dramatic change in how people are living. There are countless things that need to change. Here I will mention just a few, focusing on the nation where I live, the United States.
We need more housing suitable for individuals living alone that is also affordable. That includes not just isolated apartments and homes, but also arrangements such as cohousing neighborhoods, where people choose to live because they want a sense of community.
People who live alone are often quite independent and resourceful. Still, there are certain tasks that are more easily accomplished with help, and other tasks that some solo dwellers just don’t want to do. Platforms such as TaskRabbit and Thumbtack provide some opportunities to find help, but those kinds of options need to be available in more places. And, as always, they need to be affordable.
For people who are ill or disabled or in need of more help as they age, more services, and more affordable services, need to be available so that they can continue to live on their own for as long as they want to.
Packaging of Products
Too often, items are sold in quantities that are wasteful to people living alone. In supermarkets, for example, perishable items are sometimes sold in amounts that solo dwellers could never consume before they go bad. It would help if food items were sold in smaller portions (without charging proportionately more) and if more items were offered unpackaged so that shoppers could buy as much or as little as they wish.
Other kinds of items beyond food, such as housewares, are also sometimes sold in quantities of little interest to people who live alone. That should change, too.
People on their own often get charged more per person than couples or families. That’s true for insurance, memberships, cultural events, travel, and probably just about everything else you can think of. That’s a violation of the principle of Fairness for Single People, and it should end.
Restaurants and other service industries need to make solo customers feel welcome. No more hiding them in the back, next to the swinging door of the kitchen.
Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for the New York Times, suggested that we wage a war on loneliness. That’s fine, except for the parts where he implicated single people and people living alone. As I explained in this article in the Atlantic, they are not to blame for the supposed epidemic of loneliness. In fact, when people living alone are similar to people living with others in important ways, such as their income, the solo dwellers are actually less lonely.
One of the biggest problems of people living alone is that other people think they have problems that they don’t. There are enough real challenges, such as the ones I’ve outlined above. Kristof and others should learn about the real lives of people living alone and stop perpetuating disparaging myths.