cities | July 15, 2013

Solo In The City: Eric Klinenberg On The Increase Of Urban Singletons

More Americans are choosing to live alone than ever before in history—are the cities they're residing in equipped to handle their unique needs? In Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, cities speaker Eric Klinenberg says that "one in seven American adults now lives alone." That equates to an increase in solo households in America from 9 percent in 1950 to approximately 28 percent today. According to a new post in The Atlantic Cities, these solo dwellers are choosing to call urban cities home. "But the paradox of solo attraction to urban life is that modern metro areas were largely planned and designed with the nuclear family in mind," the article reads. That means that urban planners need to modify and, in some cases, completely rethink the infrastructure in these cities in order to bring more solos in. And, to ensure they have the support and services they need when they arrive.

One of the first changes recommended in the article is to promote and enhance public transportation. A new study by Devajyoti Deka reported that 6 to 7 percent of American singles take public transit (as compared to only 3 percent of their coupled-up counterparts). Further, while nearly all couples surveyed had one or more cars, only 85 percent of singles reported owning an automobile. This means that cities attempting to attract singles needs to list public transit as a top priority.

Further, as Klinenberg says, "there are 11 million seniors over the age of 65 living alone today." He adds that this number is continuing to grow and this demographic poses a unique set of challenges for their cities of residence. "We haven't thought about how to make assisted living facilities that are really high quality and pleasurable into places that most people can access," Klinenberg cautioned in an interview. "I think until we do, we'll have a real crisis on our hands." An elderly single population raises two concerns, specifically: "One is the need to develop better housing for the elderly—be it affordable and livable single-occupancy studios or nicer nursing homes," reads The Atlantic Cities article. "The other is figuring out a way to improve mobility for older people." In his book as well as his lectures, Klinenberg addresses these kinds of challenges head-on. The way we live is changing dramatically, he says, so it's time that we start designing our cities with these changes in mind.