Candace Karu

Flying Solo

Fitness, LifestyleCandace

Beautiful smiling woman Statistics show that almost one third of the nation's 78 million Baby Boomers - people born between 1946 and 1964 - are single -- either never married, divorced, or widowed. While many of them are living with family members or roommates, a large number of this group lives alone, some for the first time in their lives. While there are those who cherish their solitude, others find that the challenge of living alone can sometimes be overwhelming.

Though I've been divorced for almost 10 years, I have been navigating the world on my own for the six years since my last child left for college. At first the solitude was daunting, but since then I've found living alone can be a thrilling, fulfilling experience. Like many new endeavors, flying solo takes practice and a lot of support. Living alone doesn't have to mean being lonely, but it does take effort and thought to work well.

One trick is to find ways to revel in the times when being alone is a luxury -- those Sunday afternoons when the TV and remote are yours alone -- and fill up the emptier hours with activities that put you in touch with other people. Following are a few things you can do to make being a singleton a less isolating, healthier, and a lot more fun.

One of the hardest things to figure out when you live alone is how to eat right, how to prepare healthy, balanced meals for one. While one of the advantages of single life is the ability to declare pop corn and a movie "dinner," this is a culinary choice that will eventually lead to trouble, or scurvy. Balanced meals should be the goal. There are a host of solutions to this problem. One is to make one big meal, usually on a weekend, and divide it into single-serving portions to refrigerate or freeze for later in the week.

I've always been a fan of cheese & crackers for dinner, but gone are the days of saltines topped with a square of American. Trolling the cheese counter at my specialty market can yield two or three amazing new cheese selections. Combined with toasted whole wheat baguette rounds, a sliced apple or pear and a handful of toasted almonds yields a delicious, if elementary meal, that is quick and satisfying. Chowhound.com, a website "for those who live to eat" has a wonderful page of reader tips for preparing meals for one.  You can also find more tips about cooking for one here.

The beauty of eating alone is that you can do whatever you want. Cereal and bananas for dinner? Why not? No one can tell you that an entirely orange-ish meal of mac and cheese with a cantalope chaser isn't a proper meal. And why not just go ahead and eat the pie before you have your salad. Why not, indeed!

While making meals for one can be challenging, restaurant dining provides singles a completely different set of obstacles. I live in a town with an embarrassment of wonderful restaurants. Were I to sample them only when I had someone to go with, I would certainly miss some extraordinary meals. My go-to tactic when I'm dining alone? I eat at the bar. I love the activity and atmosphere the bar provides and bartenders are usually happy to engage in conversation, if you're up for one. To find tips on dining out alone,  you might want to check out SoloDining.com. And keep in mind, a good book, the sports section of the newspaper or the latest Vanity Fair is always an acceptable dining companion.

People living alone have unique exercise needs as well. Working out can provide a sociable counterpoint to solo living. If you spend time at home alone, you may want to investigate nearby exercise classes that provide camaraderie as well as a workout. A great place to start is by visiting your local YMCA. If classes aren't your fitness cup of tea, try connecting with an established walking or running group or even create one of your own.

Let's face it, dating after 40 just might be the greatest challenge of all. Eventually, we'll probably figure out the eating and the exercising, but honestly, dating? It's really not for the faint of heart. The best way to find potential dating partners may still be the old fashioned way, meeting through friends -- close friends who know you well and have your back. So make sure your inner circle keeps their eyes open for potential dates.

While relying on your friends for introductions is optimistic, at some point, you'll probably need to take matters into your own hands. This is the perfect opportunity to leverage the power of technology and employ social networking to improve your dating life. Something as simple as having a Twitter account or a Facebook page will help. If you're not sure how to do this, grab a tech-savvy friend and have him or her walk you through the relatively simple steps. There are lots of tips on Tweeting, like this one, or for Facebook, like this, online. You can also Google "Twitter for beginners" or "Facebook for beginners" for more help.

You might have heard that these are wonderful vehicles to keep up with old friends, but they are also a great way to meet new ones. Twitter and Facebook members are not only very social, most are generous and inclusive. Your first Tweetup or Facebook social may be intimidating, but might soon become one more element of an active social life. Communicating online takes practice, so give it a few weeks before evaluating your potential for success.

There are endless online sites that can make dating easier. Match.com, JDate.com, Fitness-Singles.com, and many others can get you started with safe online dating. But you can also get excellent dating advice at sites like 50+Fabulous.comBoomj.com and VibrantNation.com.

Living alone can be an exciting journey that can, paradoxically, help you expand your life, both internally and externally. All it takes is a little self-confidence, a lot of optimism, and a sense of adventure.