Gleefully single seniors: ‘If I wanted to feel complete, it had to come from within’

Being “self-partnered” is not just for those in their 20s or 30s, but for some seniors too.

Although being alone in the later years of one’s life often comes with a stigma of loneliness attached, some people just prefer living life on their own terms – whether it means not having to share the bed, or eat dinner on anyone else’s schedule. Here, five happily single seniors share their stories.

‘You never get criticised’

Di Moloney, 72, Melbourne

Diane Moloney at her home in Melbourne
Diane Moloney: ‘I would say I’m successfully single.’

Di Moloney got married in her mid-20s, had two daughters with her husband, and then divorced in 1987 at the age of 36. She dabbled in dating and searching for an “ideal partner” up until her 50s but then came to the conclusion she “wasn’t interested” as she “had enough friends and companions” already.

“Now, for many, many years, I’ve chosen to remain single,” says Moloney. “You cook when you want to you want, eat food that you want to, have a glass of wine when you want to, you never get criticised by anybody in any way because you’ve only got yourself to blame if something goes wrong – there are a lot of advantages to being single.

“I would say I’m successfully single.”

‘The bigger problem is trying to live with somebody’

Kerrie Lorimer, 70, Sydney

Kerrie Lorimer stands on a beach in Western Australia
Kerrie Lorimer says her relationship with her children and grandchildren are her priority.

Kerrie Lorimer married her husband back in 1973, one month after first meeting him. They had two children and spent 14 years together before separating – and she’s been single ever since, for over 30 years.

Having suffered a brain injury as a result of a car accident 20 years ago, Lorimer is disabled and on the pension. She lives by herself, but says being alone isn’t an issue and notes how she has a few close friends, a range of carers who come by every week and is active in her local community as a member of a local writers’ group and organisations that help “to fight the developers”.

“I think the bigger problem is trying to live with somebody,” she says. “I just think it’s complicated living with somebody else. I mean, even before I had a brain injury.”

She says one of the main benefits of being unpartnered is “that you’re independent”.

“It is more that I miss my children because they live interstate and being isolated from my grandchildren … they are the relationships that I prefer to enjoy at this point in my life.”

‘I don’t have any constrictions’

Charlene Fisher, 70, Encounter Bay, South Australia

Charlene Fisher was married for 22 years, had two children, and has been divorced and single for two decades. When she tied the knot with her now ex-husband, they were “very deeply in love” but grew apart. “Now that I am at this point in my life, I’m quite happy, quite contented where I am,” she says.

“I don’t have to make excuses or work to anyone else’s schedule. So if I’m having an odd day and I just want to sit here and read a book, then I sit here and read a book. Or when I want to do some gardening, I’ll do that … I don’t have any constrictions on me and my time.”

However, she notes, “I would never regret marrying my husband because we produced two amazing people. They are the apple of my eye.”

Both her children now live in different cities – her son in Melbourne and daughter in Los Angeles – and have families of their own. As a result, she doesn’t get to see them as much as she would like, but keeps in touch over Zoom and with regular phone calls.

“Because I’ve been by myself for so long, I’ve become very independent.”

‘Friendships are more valuable’

Bruce Cowper, 74, Sydney

Bruce Cowper at his home in Sydney.
Bruce Cowper: ‘I came to the conclusion that the best way to ruin a good friendship was to get into a romantic relationship.’ Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

Bruce Cowper has twice been married and never had children. For over 10 years now he has lived unpartnered, focusing instead on his friendships, hobbies and self-fulfilment.

“I’ve been through so many relationships [in the past] because I think I was looking for someone to make my life feel full and complete. And I just came to the conclusion that I was barking up the wrong tree. If I wanted to feel content and complete, it had to come from within me, rather than looking for it out there somewhere, or in someone else.”

“And I came to the conclusion that the best way to ruin a good friendship was to get into a romantic relationship and I’ve decided that friendships are more valuable to me. I don’t want to wreck any more good friendships.”

That was unless he found “someone loaded” with “a big property and private jet”, he laughs.

‘I make do very well’

Jessica*, 73, Victor Harbour, South Australia

Jessica*, now with two grown-up children, has been married twice, the last ending with an amicable separation two years ago. “I don’t want to be miserable for the next 10 years of my life,” she says. “I want to live it the way I want to live it.”

Jessica does admit the separation came with financial concerns, yet she gets by on the age pension. “I make do very well. I don’t scrimp, I still have the odd glass of wine and I eat comfortably, I eat well, and I can afford to go out for the occasional coffee or dinner,” she says. “But you have to learn to live within your means. Most of the women I know do.”

For Jessica, things have looked up since choosing to be single again. “I lived by myself for five years between husbands and I should have remembered back then about how good it was. Being able to choose what you do when you do it, how you do it, and keeping the place tidy or clean for yourself, not cleaning up after someone else – and being free to be yourself.” She also notes that “having the bed to yourself is great”.

With that understanding of how good singledom can be, she hopes her daughter, who has recently separated from her third marriage, may follow in her footsteps: “I’m hoping that maybe that was the last one … because she’s really enjoying life.”

*Jessica requested her name be changed for privacy


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