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Marital Status and Transitions Gerontology 410 Jan 2008.

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Presentation on theme: "Marital Status and Transitions Gerontology 410 Jan 2008."— Presentation transcript:

1 Marital Status and Transitions Gerontology 410 Jan 2008

2 Patterns of Marriage and Cohabitation Surveys in Canada in 1991 show Common Law and Lone Parenting rates increasing making up 26% of all families. 10 years previously this figure was 20% Common Law rates are now 16 times that of married rates and lone family rates are 19% of the total with women heading these families on a ratio of 4:1 One in five children in Canada live with a lone parent in 1996 The Vanier Institute on the family has found that cohabitation increases with age.

3 Cohabitation and the Elderly Elderly who cohabit are often divorced, less religious and less traditional. Cohabiting is however less stable than marriage with relationships dissolving more rapidly than marital ones when studied over a five year period For the elderly, these relationships are more convenient than dating, provide a mechanism for sexual availability and increased rates of sexual intercourse, have positive economic benefits, and carry few risks

4 Cohabitation and the Elderly Marriage seems less important as people age, but the levels of commitment are similar to marital relationships and are high on standard measures of happiness and stability. Exchange Theory is not as important to elderly couples who are living together under more equal circumstances Men do not adjust well to widowhood and seek relationships more readily than women.

5 Cohabitation Women in later life are often reluctant to give up their independence or to replace a spouse or live in some fear about becoming a caregiver again to another dependent partner. Cohabitation therefore is seen as more functional, has good emotional capacity and provides for active sexual sharing. In many instances cohabitation may not include living in the same domicile.

6 Cohabitation For Society, cohabitation may be seen as a factor of social control in the domains of sexual behavior and health maintenance Studies are showing the elderly who cohabit have active sex lives and a higher frequency of sexual relations than their married counterparts. On the negative side however, dissolution of these relationships can cause declines in physical and mental health for both partners.

7 Cohabitation Lauman in 1991 found that the elderly in cohabitative relationships were less monagamous and that married couples had closer bonds and expressed higher degrees of happiness We must be aware that there is a selection process going on here and that marriage at an older age has less to do with economics and status and more to do with well-being and has the indirect effect of making more women available to men sexually.

8 What Women Want Survey Oct 2003 This survey conducted on a sample of 5000 women between the ages of 55-95 with a 52% response rate and a mean age of 71, showed that women had consistent priorities in both early and late menopausal years The three highest health priorities identified were: 1. Prevent memory loss (88%) 2. Reduce the side effects of medication (88%) 3. Correct vision impairment (86%). The least were counseling and exercise. A healthy, active sex life did not make it to the list.

9 Living Arrangements With double ageing (rate of growth of those over 80) we have longer durations of partner bonds through ageing together. With widowhood or divorce we may see long periods of absence of partner relationships Probability of remarriage is related to sex (women have higher risk of not remarrying than men) age (older persons have a smaller chance of remarrying than younger ones) Living arrangements in later life are very different between men and women.

10 Living Arrangements Widowed and divorced women outnumber men especially at ages over 70. They often outnumber married women in certain age groups. Marital and partner histories are significant variables We now see marriage, remarriage, cohabitation, living apart/together, living alone for periods, incorporation into family and non-family households. These arrangements are often based on socio-cultural opportunities and include, financial situations, standard of living, social security and health care systems

11 Living Arrangements Life expectancies differ for men and women and range from 5.4 years in UK to 9 years in Hungary Other factors to consider are marital status characteristics in the elderly pop-e.g. percentage of never married. The majority of older men are still married, while the majority of older women are widowed In the future the proportion of divorced elderly is expected to increase because remarriage rates do not appear to be keeping up with divorce rates.

12 Living Arrangements Older women in dual career marriages are aware of the negative implications of retirement on marital relationships-factors of emotional harmony, power, personal space and independence in the home. Ageing is still largely a female experience-factors to consider-economic, social, intimate relationships and community activity particularly among widowed and divorced. Concept of “choice biography”-transitions no longer follow a strict sequence, there are a large variety of pathways to choose

13 Living Arrangements We must now consider the following: Living in two or three generation households, living with adult children, co-residence with other widows and their adult children. Living alone for older divorced males is becoming more common. Older divorced women already live alone, but there is an increase in living with others of the same generation, unmarried cohabitation, living with lifelong friends or acquaintances, living with siblings

14 Living Arrangements For men, being attached often meant having a woman available for assistance and care, for women it was more for when they were no longer able to care for themselves. Deteriorating health, physical or psychological handicaps forces the elderly to give up independent living and this increases with age. Co-residing in any form means a loss of privacy and self-determination and this would directly impact intimate relationships. We will look at this more carefully when we look at facility issues and sexuality

15 Conclusion Persons 55-89 interviewed showed that older widows, widowers and divorcees, have a strong desire to continue to live in their own homes and make independent decisions, combined with the desire to have a partner to avoid loneliness, be comforted in mutual solidarity and to be fiscally secure. Given current demographic trends this profile or standard biography will undergo dramatic changes in the next generation

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