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About three years after she was widowed inthe Chicago psychotherapist Linda Randall, then 78, felt her friendship with a widowed man turning romantic. But now, considering romance with this man six years older gave her pause. I thought a lot about what to do. After dating for more than a year, they expressed mutual love. However, when he asked to move in with her, she said no.
About six months ago when he underwent surgery and needed recuperative care, Ms. Randall, heeding his wishes and using his funds, hired a live-in caregiver for him. Until he was well enough, the caregiver walked him over to her place. Now he manages on his own with his walker and spends weekends with her when his caregiver is off.
Their intimacy continues. With greater longevity, the doubling of the divorce rate since the s for people over 50 and evolving social norms, older people like Ms. Randall are increasingly re-partnering in various forms. Cohabitation, for example, is more often replacing remarriage following divorce or widowhood, said Susan L. These older adults are seeking and finding love, emotional support and an antidote to loneliness. But many older women, in particular, fear that a romantic attachment in later life will shortly lead to full-time caregiving.
To avoid this role, some seek to meet their social needs solely from their relationships with family members and friends. While researchers have not yet delved deeply into the demographics of those in LAT relationships, anecdotally it seems to be more prevalent among those at high enough socioeconomic levels to be able to maintain separate households.
In general, there is evidence that wealthier people who are single later in life are more likely to re-partner. In Europe, the data clearly show that later-life LAT relationships are on the rise.
Jenny de Jong Gierveld, a sociologist at Vrije University in Amsterdam, said that as early associal scientists in the Netherlands added questions to large national surveys to track later-life LAT relationships. Nevertheless, Dr. For example, the sociologist Huijing Wu of the University of Western Ontario determined that of unmarried but partnered Wisconsin residents over 50 in38 percent were daters, 32 percent were LAT s, and 30 percent were cohabiting.
Social scientists comment on the resourcefulness of these older couples, who are creating ways to enjoy the intimacy and emotional support of marriage or cohabitation — as several studies on LAT have confirmed they do — while avoiding caregiving expectations.
As Dr. Gierveld and her colleagues have found, LAT partners provide mainly emotional support to each other but not hands-on care. Some couples assume some care but not full-time. When Ms. Spoon, a retired administrator, and Mr. Backe, a retired pastor, met and fell in love, both were 64 and gave no thought to caregiving.
Yet they opted to live in their own apartments, getting together about four times a week. Spoon, in particular, then working full-time with an active social life, wanted to maintain her independence while enjoying their intimacy. Three years later, the issue of caregiving arose when Mr. Backe had major heart surgery and needed several months of at-home convalescent care; he moved into her apartment for those months.
This teamwork is now their model for any future caregiving needs.
Neither wants the other to become their primary caregiver. She has no children but would rely on her long-term care insurance to hire help. Expectations for care are lower for couples who do not marry or cohabit, social scientists said. Yet some question whether even expectations for married people are reasonable. Allison Forti, a counseling professor at Wake Forest University, noted that some women may feel cultural and social expectations to serve as caregivers.
People who want to avoid this role should discuss it early on in a new relationship, Dr. Forti said. These conversations should be detailed, experts advise. Each of you should state your wishes for your own care, and the financial and family resources you may have. Some alternatives to partner care include adult children, friends, paid caregivers, and one or both partners moving into an assisted living, continuing care residence or a nursing home.
Carol Podgorski, associate director of psychiatry at the University of Rochester, even suggested having a lawyer draw up documents and communicate all financial and health agreements to any adult children. Although still rare for romantic partners, caregiver agreements detailing specifics of care can be drawn up, said Tammy Weber, a Pennsylvania elder law attorney. I think I have the best of two worlds.Mature women nyc
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