Older singles have found a new way to team up: live apart

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In Europe, the data clearly shows that LAT relationships later in life are increasing. Jenny de Jong Gierveld, a sociologist at Vrije University in Amsterdam, said that as early as 1995 social scientists in the Netherlands added questions to large national surveys to track LAT relationships later in life. Dr Brown said this had not happened in the United States, where surveys typically ask who is part of a household. Nonetheless, said Dr Connidis, social scientists can infer that LAT is now a “popular option” in the United States and Canada. For example, sociologist Huijing Wu of the University of Western Ontario determined that among Wisconsin residents who were single but in a relationship over 50 in 2011, 38 percent were lovers, 32 percent were LATs, and 30 percent were cohabiting.

Social scientists comment on the ingenuity of these older couples, who create ways to enjoy the intimacy and emotional support of marriage or cohabitation – like several studies on LAT confirmed that they do – while avoiding expectations of care. As Dr Gierveld and colleagues discovered, LAT partners support each other primarily on an emotional level, but no practical care. Some couples provide care, but not full time.

“Once they’re in that relationship,” said Dr Connidis, “the partners end up being more willing to take care of each other than they thought they would, but not necessarily to the same level as they are. ‘a conjugal partner. “

Jill Spoon, 73, and John Backe, 74, a LAT couple in New York for nearly a decade, illustrate the complexity of this emotional connection. When Ms Spoon, a retired administrator, and Mr Backe, a retired pastor, met and fell in love, both were 64 years old and had no thought of caregiving. Still, they chose to live in their own apartments, meeting about four times a week. Ms Spoon, in particular, then working full time with an active social life, wanted to maintain her independence while enjoying their privacy.

Three years later, the caregiving issue arose when Mr. Backe underwent major heart surgery and required several months of home convalescent care; he moved into his apartment during those months. Ms Spoon said she coordinated care with her two “amazing daughters,” supported by a visiting nurse and friends, as she continued to work. This teamwork is now their model for all future care needs. Neither wants the other to become their primary caregiver. “I would like John to keep a lifestyle as vital as possible,” she said, and he said he wanted the same for her. She has no children but would rely on her long-term care insurance to hire help. For the care of her partner, she said: “I would like to be involved enough because I care about him and love him, but not 24/7. I don’t have the energy to. that ”, and that would mean“ I couldn’t do anything else. “

Care expectations are lower for couples who do not marry or cohabit, social scientists have said. Yet some wonder if even the expectations of married people are reasonable.

Allison Forti, professor of counseling at Wake Forest University, noted that some women may have cultural and social expectations to serve as caregivers. “I think it’s important for women to know that it’s okay to not want to serve as caregivers and retain value as women in society, ”she said. Full-time caregiving “has a huge physical and emotional impact on someone,” she noted. In a 2020 report from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 23 percent of Americans reported that caregiving made their health worse.


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