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Together and apart: a typology of re-partnering in old age

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 April 2014

Chaya Koren*
School of Social Work and The Center for the Study of Society, University of Haifa, Mt. Carmel, Israel
Correspondence should be addressed to: Dr. Chaya Koren, PhD, Lecturer, The School of Social Work and The Center for the Study of Society, University of Haifa, Mt. Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel. Phone: +972-54-6345876. Email:



The human need for love, friendship, and physical contact, and the fear of loneliness do not diminish with age. Widowhood and late-life divorce and increased life expectancy are likely to lead to alternative relationships, such as re-partnering. The purpose of this paper is to explore interplays between emotional and physical components of re-partnering in old age


Theoretical sampling of 20 couples included men who re-partnered at the age of 65+ years and women at the age of 60+ years, following termination of lifelong marriages due to death or divorce. Living arrangements included married or unmarried cohabitation under the same roof or in separate homes. Forty semi-structured interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The couple was the unit of analysis.


Interplays between physical and emotional dimensions were examined using five abductive parameters derived from data analysis resulting in a fourfold typology of emotional and physical closeness/distance in re-partnering in old age: (1) living together (physically and emotionally); (2) living apart (physically) together (emotionally); (3) living together (physically) apart (emotionally); and (4) living apart (physically and emotionally).


Findings revealed types of partner relationships that are different from lifelong marriages. The typology could help professionals working with older persons regarding what to expect in re-partnering in old age and be included in developmental theories as an option in old age. A quantitative tool for research and therapy purposes, entitled The Re-partnering in Old Age Typology Scale (RPOAT Scale), based on abductive parameters, could be established for measuring re-partnering relationship quality and classifying re-partnering couples.

Research Article
Copyright © International Psychogeriatric Association 2014 

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