Alexander Martin has insisted to his grandparents, despite their kind offerings, that he doesn’t need a cat.
“Don’t you want company?” they ask. “No, not really,” he replies.
Their kind feline offering arises from their concerns that their grandson may be lonely, because this year, rather than search for a new roommate after finding out his former one would be moving away to pursue an internship, Martin opted to live alone. He explains he thought it would be easier than searching for new housemates, plus he’s always wanted to try it.
Now, with his newfound freedom, he has a full fridge to himself, complete jurisdiction of cupboard space and can even lick his plate without having to be subjected to judgemental stares. He loves it. Yet there is a downside.
“You do have to be the one that takes out the garbage every time,” he says
However, especially among undergraduates, living alone is not the common choice, and the fate still carries the perception that living alone equals being lonely.
Although, truthfully, Martin had a difficult time coming up with a downside to living the solo life, explaining he initially feared he would be lonely. However, nearly five months into his singleton tenure, he’s yet to experience that.
Danielle Tassone, a former Fanshawe student who lived by herself in an apartment all through post-secondary agrees she rarely wished she lived with company, aside from the first time she spotted a spider.
“I wish I had a roommate to help me,” she jokes. “I got over that fear fast.”
Martin and Tassone are among a growing segment of the population choosing to live alone. According to the 2011 Canadian census, between 2001 and 2011, the proportion of one-person households increased from 25.7 per cent to 27.6 per cent. Even more interesting is that, for the first time ever, there were more one-occupant households than couple households with children.
Rod Beaujot, a professor emeritus in sociology at Western and demographer, explains this trend has been consistently rising for decades and expects it to continue among young people.
“As people invest more and more in their education, and as they struggle to get established, people are delaying their entry into unions, especially into marriage,” he says. “So there’s more time during in which they might well live alone.”
But while the charming allure of full control of a space may be tempting, the cost of living alone is substantially more than sharing a home, making it a less viable choice for many.
“If you live with other people, you’re probably going to pay less money, and if you live on your own, you’re going to pay a higher amount,” Glenn Mathews, housing mediation officer for Western, says.
According to the off-campus housing listings, the average rent for an inclusive one-bedroom apartment in London is $655, however, if you limit the search to areas around campus that number jumps to $783. Compare that to renting a room in a four-bedroom in the university bubble, which would average around $496, and it’s a difference of $287 per month.
Living alone may be easy, but it certainly isn’t cheap.
However, both Martin and Tassone insist that, for them, avoiding the headache of potential spats with roommates outweighed the steep cost it entails.
“I always find when I’m living with somebody, even if they’re my good friend, there always ends up being friction by the end of it,” Martin admits. “It’s just easier this way to maintain close relationships.”
Though before a student decides whether they’re best suited for a life with roommates or without, Tom Murphy, a professor of sociology at Western, explains he or she must think deeply about whether living alone is the right choice.
“If you’re going to live alone then you need to have a reasonably healthy state of mind,” he says, adding it’s important to schedule in time when you will be social. “The other group of people on the flip side of this are people who may already have pre-existing conditions, for example a tendency toward depression, a tendency toward feeling the need to get away from it all. [Living alone] is probably not a good idea [for this group].”
Murphy adds it’s not a question of whether it’s a good choice or bad, it simply depends on the individual.
Martin agrees the lifestyle isn’t for everyone, and explains he prioritizes preserving an active social life, spending a large chunk of his time interacting with people on campus. In a way, his life is the best of both worlds.
“I’m not even alone that often, it’s just that when I want to be, there’s a space where I can be and I don’t have to worry about my roommate in the next room blaring music.”
And that need for privacy, a contributing factor to why students decide to live alone, may increase with age. According to a 2006 survey administered by Western housing services, 52 per cent of students live with four or more roommates during their second year, while that number falls to 34 per cent by fourth year. Matthews explains survey results have consistently shown a decrease in roommates the further a student is into their education.
As far as Martin is concerned, although it may not be the popular choice, he is happy he chose to live alone this year.
Roommates or cats need not inquire.