As of the 2000 Census, people living alone made up 28% of all households in Cumberland County, and almost 70% of households in the most highly populted sections of downtown Portland. About 60% of those living alone and 75% of people over 65 living alone are women. The Maine Community Foundation awarded a grant in 2008 for Cumberland County staff to study this topic.
This study combined a survey (n=167) and interviews (n=30) that reached a broad array of women aged 24-70 living alone or with unrelated housemates, and followed up with a series of in-depth personal interviews (n=30). The study found that many women enjoy the independence and privacy of living alone, but value having friends and neighbors they can trust nearby. Safety and peace in one’s home was linked to relationships with neighbors and/or housemates. Only women with the highest levels of income, education, energy and extroversion seemed to create a desirable balance through a variety of factors: owning in desirable neighborhoods, active involvement with their community, a wide network of friends and neighbors, confidence in their ability to resolve conflicts, and having extra living space for guests or future life partner. Most other women had difficulty finding a desirable balance of community, privacy, and affordability due to lack of options and concerns about conflicts with housemates and neighbors. Shared outdoor spaces, dog-walking, and access informal neighborhood gatherings were reported to be the best ways for people to get to know and trust their neighbors.
The survey showed no significant correlation between age, income, education, neighborhood or tenure and willingness to share space. About 20% of women living alone said they would consider sharing a kitchen with one or more compatible people.
My Own Space: A study of Women living outside of traditional family structures Elizabeth Trice, Joshua Merrill, January 2010. Read full study or download presentation slides here. We can also make a presentation on this topic to your group.
Please contact Elizabeth Trice - 207-871-8380 - with questions, feedback or for a presentation to your group.