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    Older Men, Younger Women

    Will It Work?

    The May-December story continued...

    "The concept of what age means in our society is changing very rapidly," says Ian Alger, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. With many men rejecting the idea that they should retire at age 65, older men are discovering they feel vigorous enough to mate and even to start new families, he says. The Internet has been a rich meeting ground, since it lets people communicate without revealing their ages. "It brings everybody into the marketplace of life," he says.

    Sometimes, people aren't even looking for the right partner online; it just happens. When Tamara Latorre first started chatting online with her now-boyfriend, she says she paid no attention to age. "I had absolutely no expectations of meeting him."

    The challenge of May-December

    While these pairings can bring great joy, they often carry unique challenges, experts say. First among them is that the average life expectancy for men is now 73.6 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, compared to a life expectancy for women of 79.4 years. An age difference of 15 or 20 or 35 years early in life may seem insignificant, but over time the age gap can mean that the younger woman is nursing an ill or dying husband just when she's in midlife and eager to be active. "We're dealing with two people in different stages of the life cycle," says Harvey Rubin, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry and director of continuing education at the Yale School of Medicine.

    Trying to merge these cycles may involve reconciling to the fact that the woman will be left to raise a child by herself. One couple Rubin saw in private practice met when she was in her early 20s and he was in his late 50s, a dashing and successful businessman and musician. "She promised him she'd never want children," reports Rubin. "Well, he became a father at 82." Because of heart trouble, he's not able to help much with the child, who is now 3. "Their marital relationship is really nil," says Rubin. "He's been ill and needs her help."

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