Giving Compass’ Take:
• Time reports on the phenomenon of older adults being in committed relationships, but deciding to live apart rather than marry or cohabitate.
• What effect might this have on the physical and mental well-being of this population? Should health providers be researching the phenomenon in more depth?
Three years ago, William Mamel climbed a ladder in Margaret Sheroff’s apartment and fixed a malfunctioning ceiling fan. “I love that you did this,” Sheroff exclaimed as he clambered back down.
Spontaneously, Mamel drew Sheroff to him and gave her a kiss. “I kind of surprised her. But she was open to it,” he remembered.
Since then, Mamel, 87, and Sheroff, 74, have become a deeply committed couple. “Most nights, I’ll have dinner with Marg and many nights I stay with her overnight,” Mamel explained.
And yet, despite the romance, these North Carolina seniors live in separate houses and don’t plan to move in together or marry. Demographers call this type of relationship “living apart together” (LAT).
“It’s a new, emerging form of family, especially among older adults, that’s on the rise,” said Laura Funk, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Manitoba in Canada who’s written about living apart together.
Questions abound about these unconventional couplings. What effects will they have on older adults’ health and well-being? Will children from previous marriages accept them? What will happen if one partner becomes seriously ill and needs caregiving?
Researchers are beginning to focus on these concerns, said Susan Brown, chair of the sociology department and co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. “It’s really remarkable that older adults are in the vanguard of family change,” she said.
Read the full article about older couples deciding to live separately by Judith Graham at time.com.
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