[ASC-media] Love, sex and intimacy in new late life relationships (from Penny Underwood, National Ageing Research Institute)

MediaWise mediawise at mediawise.net.au
Tue Oct 1 00:02:16 PDT 2013



Love among older Australians is alive and well especially over the Internet, according to Sue Malta, Research Fellow at the National Ageing Research Institute.

Dr Malta, who recently completed her PhD looking into love, sex and intimacy in new late life relationships, discovered that an increasing number of older Australians are finding their partners on line.

Of the 45 Australians aged between 60 and 92 who took part in her research, 32 had found their partners on line and 13 face to face.

“Today, the International Day of the Older Person, is a celebration of being older and what better way to mark it than to discuss love and sexuality in an age group that so many people think don’t ‘do it’ or are asexual,” said Dr Malta.

She herself was surprised by the number of people sourcing their new partners online but says that it is mainly because there are limited opportunities in their social circles to meet new people.

“In a world that sees older age as a time of loss and decline, the findings are positive and life affirming and show that life does not stop at 60 or at retirement,” said Dr Malta.

“However unlike younger people who look for partners to eventually live with or marry, the majority of older adults in this study chose to live separately in order to maintain their independence, avoid the care giving role and to protect family relationships, as well as their children’s inheritance.”

The study is one of a few that describe the actual initiation and progression of new late-life relationships, and particularly within an Australian context.  Previous research has focused on sexual functioning rather than the meaning older adults give to their loving partnerships.

The study participants were either divorced, widowed or had never married. Each participant talked about their relationship as being meaningful, important and sexually intimate even though few had progressed to marriage or cohabitation.

“Most of the older adults preferred to date or live separately, even when their partnerships were long-term and committed, in order to avoid providing care-giving and instrumental support,” said Dr Malta.

Her findings will be used by the National Ageing Research Institute, based in Melbourne, to investigate the areas of sexuality and public health among older adults, as there are currently no Australian public health policies in this area.

The impact of ‘living apart together’ relationships amongst older Australians also needs to be investigated more fully.  The implications of such partnerships in terms of ongoing care, emotional and sexual equality and what happens in the event of a breakup, have yet to be elucidated.

“We are talking about a new family form within Australia and one which will become more prevalent as society ages. The implications are vast,” said Dr Malta.

Media inquiries: Penny Underwood (03) 9818 8540 or 0409 215 120.

About NARI
NARI was established in 1975 to be the centre of excellence in Australia for research into ageing and improving the lives and health of older people. Today, NARI is renowned for its work in falls and balance, pain, dementia, mental health, carers’ health, healthy ageing, system improvements, public and preventive health and physical activity.
MediaWise Pty Ltd
Penny Underwood: T + 61 3 9818 8540
Phone + 61 3 9818 6339 (John Myers) 0409 215 120
Email: mediawise at mediawise.net.au<mailto:mediawise at mediawise.net.au>
40 Morang Road, Hawthorn, Victoria, 3122, Australia
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