Canadian couples living together into later stages of life
Misty Harris, Ottawa Citizen
It’s no small irony that one of the oldest romantic ideas in history has never been more relevant, or more attainable, than in the modern age.
Growing old together is less a dream than a reality for more and more Canadian sweethearts, with Statistics Canada reporting a steadily rising share of seniors residing as couples – and at much later stages of life.
But even as biology obliges long-term love, with the gender divide in life expectancy continuing to narrow, the culture at large isn’t quite as accommodating.
Before 89-year-old Jean Gibson passed away this summer, the Victoria woman spent her final months separated from her beloved husband of nearly 71 years – a painful, involuntary scenario that’s becoming increasingly common among seniors.
“My mom, because of the Alzheimer’s, couldn’t rationally understand it. She perceived it as my dad walking away from their marriage and throwing her out with the garbage,” says Gibson’s son Don, who lives in Winnipeg.
“And for my dad, the tough part was the sense of failure that he wasn’t able to be her primary care-giver and advocate. . . . His identity suddenly had a doughnut-hole in it, with a whole part of him missing.”
Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging, says such deficiencies in the system are just one part of a larger picture in which older Canadians’ wellbeing is threatened by everything from poor public transportation to limited community health resources to housing accessibility issues.
“I don’t think society is prepared for seniors, period. So senior couples challenge things even further,” says Milner.