"Shacking Up" and Settling Down: Cohabitation in Middle and Late Adulthood

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Presentation given at 4th annual Social Gerontology Conference. Rates of cohabitation have increased sharply among adults of all ages over the past few decades, particularly among adults ages 50 and older. Researchers have observed key differences between younger cohabiters and older cohabiters. Whereas younger cohabiters are more likely to be cohabiting as a path towards marriage, older cohabiters are more likely to be cohabiting after a previous marriage that may have ended in divorce. With increasing divorce rates among adults 50 and older, rates of cohabitation among this age group may continue to rise. Also compared to younger cohabiters, older cohabiters are more likely to view their relationship with their cohabiting partner as a substitute for marriage, are less likely to have plans to marry their partner, and tend to have more stable cohabiting unions. With more middle-aged and older adults in long-term cohabiting unions, researchers have questioned whether or not cohabiting unions can provide the same benefits as marriages do. Informal caregiving is one area in which cohabiters may be disadvantaged compared to married adults, as many married older adults primarily rely on their spouses for informal care. Cohabiting partners may or may not feel as obligated as spouses to assume the role of a caregiver.

In this presentation, current research on cohabitation in middle and late adulthood will be reviewed. Potential advantages and disadvantages of cohabiting will be discussed, including implications for cohabiting adults’ access to informal care in later life.


4th annual Social Gerontology Conference


Statesboro, GA