Relationships in Later Life
Satisfying relationships, including intimate relationships, are important to the wellbeing of all people, including older people. In this section we look at some of the relationship issues you may face as you grow older. We hope you find the advice helpful.
Most of us need to feel physically and emotionally close to another human being. Acts of intimacy are expressions of human connection that make us feel special and valued.
The need for intimacy and affection doesn’t diminish as you age. What may change is the way you express your feelings for one another.
Some couples find that their relationship becomes more affectionate as the pressures of work and family ease. Suddenly they have the space to cultivate one another and their relationship.
For years you’ve been equal partners. Now one of you is growing more dependent and the other is doing more care. The chances are this will affect your relationship.
Whether the care is physical or mental, you start to take on roles as giver and receiver. It may feel less like the more evenly balanced adult-to-adult relationship you’re both used to.
What will life be like when you or your partner stops work? You might find it hard to form a realistic picture of the shape your day will have. Whatever happens, it will almost certainly affect your relationship. Retirement is a common time for relationships - even really strong ones - to come under stress.
Retirement changes both what you do with your time and who you spend it with. Those are changes that can unsettle a relationship.
If you find yourself single later in life you might start contemplating a new relationship. The desire to be special to someone else, and to have someone special, is part of what makes us human.
Perhaps you’re feeling lonely. Maybe you’re missing a relationship that’s ended. Or maybe it just feels like you’ve been single long enough and you want the affection, the intimacy and the companionship a partner can bring.
Is your partner behaving in a way that causes you physical or emotional pain? Are you causing your partner physical or emotional pain? If so, has this always been the case, or is it a recent development, perhaps caused by new pressures on your relationship?
Either way, it’s never too late to change.
It may be valuable to identify and talk about the pressure points in your relationship.
At the same time, you might like to reflect on why you care about one another, and on ways to show that you care.
This web article has been produced by Relationships Aotearoa and Age Concern New Zealand.