Living alone can come with risks. The U.S. Department of Justice reported rising crime against never-married individuals, who are more likely to live alone, from 2015 to 2017. But Yim and Muchow have found ways to minimize the risks. In her previous sixth-floor apartment, Yim and her roommate once woke to an intruder at the window. She chose her current apartment partially because the police station is a block away, and she feels safe leaving a window open for fresh air.
Muchow, surrounded by friends and neighbors, also sees no reason to worry about his safety and likes the city’s easy access to everything he needs. His grocery and bank are within a few blocks. His 27-floor building has laundry machines and a gated back patio for parties amid potted flowers and plastic lawn chairs. A public bus takes him to a favorite coffee shop.
People living alone in New York City also find businesses and restaurants eager for their patronage. Subway posters advertise 10-slice loaves of bread, an alternative to freezing or trashing unfinished slices from larger loaves. Charmin offers extra-large toilet paper rolls, more convenient than storing extra rolls in a small apartment.
People who live alone are more likely to eat out, and many New York restaurants welcome solo dining. Some require it: Ichiran, a Japanese ramen chain, forces diners to eat alone with “flavor concentration booths,” where bamboo shades block distractions from the meal.
Living alone might seem guaranteed to increase loneliness, but a study published in Developmental Psychology suggested that it depends partially on whether someone chooses to live alone, as Yim does. She meets neighbors while dog-walking or working out at a local gym, and with a little more effort, she can see friends for dinner or drinks. But Yim still said she misses the ease of hanging out with roommates, meeting their friends, and always having a buddy for brunch.
As single-person households become more common, churches have an opportunity to fight loneliness with Christ-centered community. Rosaria Butterfield, author of a book on hospitality called The Gospel Comes With a House Key, said in an interview with the Desiring God ministry that churches often foster loneliness, but can intentionally build community instead. For instance, she recommends church elders compile a list of homes that are open, no invitation needed, for holidays.
She also emphasized the value of living near other church members. Muchow attends a parish church a few blocks from his house, which allows him to occasionally see other congregants while running errands. He also attends an evening lecture now and then and helps count the offering on Monday mornings.
Muchow says he and his neighbors are content in their apartments: “We all feel we should be carried out in a box.”
—Esther Eaton is WORLD’s New York intern.
This story has been updated to correct Susan Yim’s name.