Should his wife than take either part- or full-time work to compensate for this, the male idea of self-reliance and care for others may be affected negatively. Conversely, a woman who is required to offer her own resources to help make ends meet for the couple may resent not being able to rely on her husband as she is used to. From both sides, this could create stress and the possible end of the marriage.
Another stress factor can be age-related illness, creating a marriage condition in which one partner needs to become the other's carer rather than equal partner. This also creates a change in the relationship dynamic that can cause considerable stress and/or resentment for both partners. The caring partner, for example, can experience unwanted feelings of disgust for the incapacitated partner or emotional and physical fatigue as a result of the caring role. The ill partner, in turn, can experience feelings of self-loathing for a being a burden on the loved one.
Even without undue stress as a result of the above conditions, the marriage relationship necessarily changes as people change over he years. Research has shown that the most highly satisfactory time within the marriage is just after marriage and within the retirement years (Hollis-Sawyer, personal communication, 2013). In-between these two eras, the couple's lives are subjected to career stress and child rearing concerns. Just after marriage and after retirement, these stressors are no longer a concern within the relationship. Couples whose relationships do survive career and child rearing stress tend to become closer after retirement.
One major change in a close marriage relationship is when one marriage partner passes away. While it has been unusual in the past and remains somewhat so now, some remaining partners do choose to remarry. The factor of increasing human life expectancy has created a gradual change in this dynamic, where many partners who are left behind after a loss cannot face years and possible decades of loneliness. They would then choose to remarry (Hollis-Sawyer, personal communication, 2013).
Another interesting dynamic of intimate relationships, especially in modern times, is that they are not necessarily exclusive to marriage, even in later life (Chapter 3: Intimate Ties in Later Life, p. 54). The changing social position on intimacy today has created a dynamic among older single people, as it has among their younger counterparts. Dating may include intimate, sexual relationships, without being preceded by marriage. Indeed, marriage may or may not be part of such relationships at all. Again, this is somewhat less usual among aging people than the younger generations, but like remarriage, these are on the increase.
Another new trend is the tolerance for gay and sexual relationships. This has also created a platform for older people to be more honest about their sexuality and enter into relationships that are satisfying and available to them (Chapter 3, Intimate Ties in Later Life, p. 55). Some couples choose not to marry at all, but simply to live together in a long-term committed relationship. This occurs within both heterosexual and homosexual relationships.
Sexual activity also changes over the years, especially for couples who have been together in a long-term relationship. There is a general decline in this part of intimate relationships. Nevertheless, this does not mean it stops entirely. One major factor that impacts the possibility of sex in older age is the lack of access to a partner, such as after death or divorce. Further, the social and practical constraints of communal care often makes it difficult to engage in sexual relations, even when both marriage partners are still alive, together, and retain a certain appetite for intimacy.
Looking more closely at the dynamic of losing a partner, a myriad of feelings may be encountered after such a loss. According to Roy and Russell (2006), the void left by the loss could create a tendency to look for new intimate relationships to fill it. The new experience of such a relationship could also include a new and freer attitude toward dating and sex. Since there are no longer parental or social constraints regarding how far dating should go, it is usually the older person's responsibility to determine the set of values he or she will use when engaging in dating and new relationship activities.
Not everybody can, however, engage in a completely new mode of intimacy after years of marriage to one person. Some, for example, may feel that they are betraying the deceased partner by starting a new relationship or engaging in sexual activity. Others could adhere to the values they used when dating for the first time, waiting for marriage before having sex, and so on.
One important change when engaging in new relationships in older age is adult children and other younger family members, who necessarily become part of the new relationship. An older person who feels ready to date again after the end of a long-term relationship or the death of a partner should be aware of the family dynamics and how this may impact the decision. Adult children may feel it is inappropriate for their parents to engage in new emotional involvements, for example. Prejudice, ignorance, and unwanted interference may be part of this experience. When the older person is aware of this possibility, it can be handled either by counseling or simply by family communication. Mainly, it is important for adult children to understand that the parent who remains after the death of the partner does not need to suspend the rest of his or her life in honor of the deceased partner. On the other hand, there are ways to introduce new lifestyles and relationships tactfully and gradually so that no unnecessarily painful conflict arises.
Another interesting dynamic of older age and longer life expectancy is the increasing divorce rate among older couples. Even after 30 or 40 years of marriage, some older couples who find their relationship unsatisfactory make the decision to divorce in an attempt to find fulfilment elsewhere. According to Cravit (2012), for example, it is not necessarily the case that people in relationships grow closer with age. In the past, older couples may have avoided divorce because they did not have very long left to live and wanted to avoid the turmoil of divorce at such a late stage in life. Today, however, the increased life expectancy has created a sense of hope for better, more fulfilling lives and relationships, although navigating these can make life seem like a quagmire of choices to a certain extent.
It is a simple fact of life that, if we are lucky enough to not be taken from our loved ones by accident or fatal illness, we will all grow old. This means that we need to think about the concerns of older age and what we will do to ensure that our needs are met later in life. One major component of older age is that today's medical technology and focus on healthy choices have enhanced human life to such a degree that we can remain active and lively for far longer than has been the case as recently as 50 years ago. This means that many older people today choose to retain their independence and even their working lives for as long as possible.
On the other hand, it is also true that nobody remains active and lively forever. As older age sets in, the body necessarily weakens to the point where we are reliant on the care and advocacy offered by others for our continued well-being until death. The dynamic of this phenomenon is also changing. Today's situation is one in which the rising costs of living, even for an average working person, presents significant challenges. In addition, the shrinking provisions offered by pension schemes has caused many older people to elect to move in with family rather than into a care home during their later years. In this way, they receive a significant amount of care based upon their family structure, which includes practical care such as providing meals and helping with basic daily routines, as well as related concerns such as advocating for support to elderly people living in the homes of their children or other family members (Hollis-Sawyer, personal communication, 2013). This makes the topic important to address in terms of policymaker and sociologist viewpoints. Specifically, questions around how older people can be helped to remain as productive and happy members of society for as long as possible can be addressed in terms of creating and maintaining community programs.
In this light, community programs are important to not only create a platform for older people themselves to connect with others in their community and participating in programs, but also for their family and caretakers. Caring for an older person can create a significant amount of stress for a household. Hence, such a household,…