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Three - The changing landscape of intimacy in later life

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 April 2022

Torbjörn Bildtgård
Affiliation:
Stockholms universitet Institutionen för socialt arbete
Peter Öberg
Affiliation:
Högskolan i Gävle, Sweden
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Summary

The title of this chapter alludes to Laslett's (1989) metaphor of the changing landscape of later life and refers to the changing conditions of late-life intimacy. While the previous chapter aimed to investigate the changing structural conditions for late-life intimacy from a theoretical perspective, the purpose of this chapter is to uncover the changing realities for repartnering using empirical data. In the chapter we show the prolongation of the lifespan in different countries and discuss its importance for older people's relationships and for envisioning new intimate futures. We illustrate the rise of divorce culture among older people using comparative data on divorce rates in different countries and show how this affects the partner market for older singles, by creating a ‘society of divorcees’ and potential for a ‘grey repartnering revolution’ – but also how the gendered structure of the partner market is affected by this change. Finally, we use survey data to show how new digital technologies have affected the dating arena by introducing new venues for meeting a new partner.

In this chapter and in the rest of the book we will be using three main sets of empirical data (described in detail in the methodological appendix at the end of the book): first, demographical data collected from Eurostat and a number of national census bureaus, including Statistics Sweden; second, a national representative survey with 1,225 responses from 60–90-year-old Swedes; and third, a qualitative interview study with 28 Swedes, 60–90 years old, who are currently dating singles or who have repartnered after their 60th birthday and are currently in a marital, cohabiting or LAT union.

The impact of the prolonged lifespan for envisioning new intimate futures

How people imagine their intimate futures is arguably affected by how much time they expect to have left in life in relatively good health (see also Chapter eleven). This perceived remaining healthy lifespan is likely influenced by the average length of life, which has increased in all countries of the Western world over the last half century (cmpr. Vaupel, 2010). If we take the age of 65, which is the chronological age most often used as a reference point for the transition into later life, statistics from the EU countries show that in the last half century (1960–2013), life expectancy at 65 has increased by on average five years.

Type
Chapter
Information
Intimacy and Ageing
New Relationships in Later Life
, pp. 29 - 42
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2017

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