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The Living Room Me and society What is a "Recluse"----a lifestyle choice, or a part of aging or none of the above?
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What is a "Recluse"----a lifestyle choice, or a part of aging or none of the above?
I have been looking at the lifestyle of a certain family member and a couple of friends---all over 55+--- and I would have to describe their behaviour as "reclusive".
They seem to acknowledge their need for space and alone time, both of which I need also--- but isn't cutting yourself off from mainstream society and being
solo a good part of the time unhealthy -----or just an inevitable part of aging? 

I am not saying these folks are holed up in a log cabin in the Montana woods with no human contact, but they seem to be fairly content (or accepting) of their aloneness.

I would like to hear from others if lots of alone time is inevitable as we age, or just a happily made choice?
Hi Deborah,
I may call myself a recluse but I'm not really, I have too many friends and neighbors to actually qualify.
I do however like a lot of time to myself and it seems to run in my family.  After a day or so of too much input we have to run home and draw the blinds and pull the covers over our heads.  We seem to gather together our scattered energies that way.
I've been this way since I was a really little kid and my mom pulled me out from under the blankets and dropped me at the bus stop.

What could she do?  There were laws to be observed...

And then of course adolescence came along and I discovered men which kept me out and about, and then college and work and marriage and kids of my own--you know the drill.

And now there's retirement. Hallelujah!  I'm reading all the books I missed out on and never listen to radio or TV or even go out much except for long walks, blessedly alone.  I also go to the symphony, the park, the botanical garden...

There are recluses who, Kazinsky-like, just hate people and are just too busy writing manifestos to bother with socializing.
And agoraphobics who really are afraid to go out.
And older folks who subsist on so little money that they can't afford to ask anyone in for coffee.  Too many of those...
And quite a few of us, as the years go by, have lost our friends and close relatives to death and as nice as young people are and neighbors newly met (say at the senior center).  They are strangers to us when we long for people to 'remember' with.  We're just adjusting.

I can't speak for anyone else but I've always valued my time, I'm even jealous of it and won't hand it over to just anybody except my really good friends.  I have four of them and they're scattered around the USA so when I want to see them I have to take my shoes off, get scanned and get on a plane.  Next spring I'm going to Europe for a month where I'm going to see all the big cities and sit in art galleries and in front of the duomo in Florence and Milano and go into a trance of appreciation and gratitude.  None of my friends are trance-prone like I am and they want to be a certain place at a certain time and I don't have to deal with that so much anymore more.  I can say, "Go there and I'll meet you at the Pantheon, Wednesday, 2pm--we'll have lunch."

I do miss a man's company more than I care to admit. But I can't eat my cake and have it too ( or whatever ) so aside from the occasional 'how do' I live without.

I am fortunate in my reclusiveness.  I enjoy it and appreciate it and I've been longing for it since I sprang from my mother's womb.
For me it's a wonderful choice and a tremendous relief.

In response to Linda OReilly
I can't wait! Reading your post is making me want retirement all the more. Too bad it is still a good 30 years away.
I, too, am very protective of my alone time. I love my family and friends and enjoy spending time with them. After a while, though, the hunger pangs for my "me" time grows until I must cancel all plans a hole up a bit.
There are many reasons why a person ends up being alone. Some of them are negative, and some are positive, and some are accidental, and some of these choices happened accidentally on purpose. Sometimes you make choices to do what you think you want to do, and only later find out that you've inadvertently chosen to do it all by yourself after you're entirely committed. If you think about how long it takes to get exactly what you want, how long people work to set themselves up for retirement - it's a long haul. Most people don't know what they're going to do with themselves when they retire because they never had a chance to do what they loved to do - or they're not able to reinvent themselves.

Sometimes it is just that we cannot "sell" our desire to have things the way we want to anyone else who wants share that situation with us. Or sometimes, we end up alone because there is something we do that is not socially acceptable to others who would usually want to hang out with us. I am overwhelmed with how many of my peers become alcoholic as they age, somewhat because "it doesn't matter now." Some people go through a process of "giving up" (sometimes necessary) without ever coming out on the other side of it to understand what they do want. Some just decide not to learn anything new and get along with what they have because it's just too much trouble to feel like you don't know what you're doing. This is an example of circumstantial isolation.

Relationships teach you about yourself. (Or, at least that is how they have always worked for me.) In a way, it's expending less effort to be alone. All those character defects that are irritating to someone else don't matter when you're alone - nobody else is there to accept the consequence except you. If you're OK with it, you can have things be any way you want, and some people get very "set in their ways." You don't have to explain the way you are, how you work, why you do what do because there is nobody to answer to. Being alone is both an advantage, and a disadvantage.

Something else that Linda mentioned I think is a much bigger factor than she lightly skipped over. Never underestimate the power of a significant booby prize that is the strangest feature of being lucky enough to get old. Watching those twenty, thirty, forty year friendships dissolve or suddenly disappear is not for sissies.

Someone asked an old woman past 100 what is the best part of being old - and she said, "No peer pressure."

I don't know what your experience with death and the process of grieving is, but in my peer group - people do not want to hang around someone who is grieving. Oh, after someone dies, people will gather to console one another and commemorate, but then they go away. They don't call, they don't make contact again for another...three months or so. Then it's only a light check-in. Somehow you're supposed to "get over it" or "deal with it." People get tired of hearing about how you feel. This distaste partly reminds them of how they cannot accept their own death, or how unpleasant it is being the one who is left after best friends and lovers are gone. There isn't much social support for accepting each person's unique process of going through their own grief. Instead of recognizing that grief is a special time, people call it "depression." It's not depression, it's grieving - but this is the cloak society wraps it in. 
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