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."