I Said, Party of One: This week,  a new AARP study confirms what many of us already knew:  for many older women,  living alone is not a sad state but a new opportunity.

A
whopping 63 percent of single women who live alone say their older
years are the time to pursue their dreams. The Economic and Social
Research Council found that women older than 60 who live alone rate
their lives as happier and healthier than if they cohabited. Men, in
contrast, are far more likely to remarry after divorce or the death of
a spouse.

Another AARP study found that among older single women, one in 10
has no desire to date and another 14 percent say they would date if Mr.
Right came along, but they’re not obsessed about it.

There is even a new term for older women living on their own: senior singletons.

An older woman’s financial situation, however, greatly affects how
content she is living on her own. While the poverty rate for all women
older than 65 is 11.5 percent, the poverty rate for single women is
almost twice as high.
Perhaps for this reason married women are, in general, healthier
than their unattached peers. But for older single women who are in
sound economic shape, flying solo can be a time of great personal
fulfillment.

“Many single women are living lives of secret contentment,” says Bella De Paulo,
psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara,
and author of Singled Out. “Many things have changed in society, so now
it’s more possible for women to be single and live full, happy and
complete lives than ever before.”

From Guilty Pleasure to Touchstone: If you’ve ever furtively switched off “All My Children” or “General Hospital” when someone you respected came near, you’re not alone. In “Erica Kane is My Guru” at Salon, Ann Bauer explores why so many millions of us find that world so strangely compelling. (Bonus video just below).

One night, not long ago, I awoke at 2 a.m., breathless, with the sensation of long icy fingers around my throat. One of my sons had landed in jail the night before, after a joy ride gone horribly awry. Now, stranded in the darkest part of night and powerless to do anything till morning, I was envisioning him in an orange jumpsuit, eating lumpen food off a metal tray. Hearing the clang of tin cups against metal bars. Seeing angry guards carrying billy clubs and criminals with shaved heads and “I Love Mama” tattoos forcing my boy into unnatural positions over a cot.

After a few minutes of lying so taut I could practically levitate, I resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to be able to go back to sleep. So I got out of bed and made a cup of tea, went downstairs, slipped a tape into our ancient VCR and rewound to some random point. Then I pressed play and there, on the screen — like an answer — was Erica Kane, wearing an orange jumpsuit, sitting in a solitary cell and talking to a ladybug.

…..I took a sloshy sort of solace from the conversation between Erica — who’d been thrown in solitary for reasons I never learned — and that insect she held in her hand. I don’t remember much of it. But there was something about how everything happens for a reason and her jail stay had taught her something valuable about life.

Here’s a woman who has been married and divorced nearly a dozen times, who has been abandoned by her father, raped by a family friend, bankrupted repeatedly and addicted to drugs. She found out her beloved daughter was a lesbian — which, in one of “AMC’s” putatively groundbreaking moments, she initially rejected then embraced — and discovered the fetus she’d meant to abort actually was “salvaged” and carried to term in the body of another woman. (You doubt the show is Christian, Mr. Cohen?) The point seems to be that whatever happens, Erica Kane carries on.

This, to me, is the narrative’s basic wisdom. I’m not usually fond of the issue-oriented story lines focusing on domestic violence, transgender issues, cochlear implants or autism. But occasionally “AMC” does manage to cut through the wealth and excess and drama, getting to something meaningful and universal that I believe adds to our world.

Walking to health, and more: University of Georgia researchers estimate that walking regularly gives a 41 percent boost to our likelihood of staying independent as we grow older.

Older adults can decrease their risk of disability and
increase their likelihood of maintaining independence by 41 percent by
participating in a walking exercise program, according to a new
University of Georgia study.

The study, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of
Geriatric Physical Therapy, also found that walking program
participants increased their peak aerobic capacity by 19 percent when
compared to a control group and increased their physical function by 25
percent.

In the past decade, researchers have focused on the benefits of
strength training in maintaining independence, but until now we didnt
have good evidence using an objective performance measure that a
walking program would improve physical functioning, said study
co-author M. Elaine Cress, professor of kinesiology and researcher in
the UGA Institute of Gerontology. Our study found that walking offers
tremendous health benefits that can help older adults stay independent.

The researchers randomly assigned 26 low-income adults aged 60 and
older to either a walking exercise group, which met three times a week
for four months, or a nutrition education control group. Initially, the
group would walk for 10 minutes continually. As the weeks progressed,
they increased their walking time to 40 continuous minutes. Each
session began with a 10-minute warm-up and ended with a 10-minute
cool-down that included balance and flexibility exercises.

…..The researchers found that physical function increased by 25
percent in the walking exercise group, compared to a decrease of 1
percent in the control group. And while the control group saw their
risk of disability increase over the four-month period, the walking
exercise group saw their disability risk go from 66 percent to 25
percent  a decrease of 41 percent in just four months.

“We know that walking is good for you, but too many people still
aren’t doing it,” Moore-Harrison said. This study shows that just
walking on a regular basis can make a huge impact on quality of life.”


All of which brings to mind (at least ours) the brilliant 47-year-old
writer Rebecca Solnit. The Lannan Literary Awards winner has long been
a booster of walking not simply on health grounds:

Historically,
walking has had many functions; for most people most of the time, of
course, it was the only method of getting from one place to another. As
Solnit says, “walking is a mode of making the world as well as being in
it,” and it allows us to know “the world through the body and the body
through the world.” This is not merely a theoretical construct. One of
Solnit’s principal concerns is that the connection between the body and
the world that walking exemplifies has begun to fade as we spend more
and more time isolated in technologized cells — SUVs, offices,
suburban homes — and trapped in a culture that sees unstructured time
alone in the world as inherently unproductive.

[Solnit’s] fine chapters on pedestrianism as a forum for protest and
rebellion, from Paris to Prague to San Francisco, and on the methods of
social control that have often prevented women from being walkers lead
her finally to Las Vegas, of all places. It’s typical of Solnit’s
daring and of her lyrical, unquenchable optimism that she sees hope in
America’s most suburbanized, most theme-parked city. On the crowded
sidewalks of the Strip, with its synthetic volcanoes, pirate ships and
Venetian canals recalling the 18th century pleasure palaces of Europe,
she finds evidence that “the thirst for places, for cities and gardens
and wilderness, is unslaked, that people will seek out the experience
of wandering about in the open air to examine the architecture, the
spectacles and the stuff for sale, will still hanker after surprises
and strangers.”

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