weekly blog--one for the ages
I tried to come up with a clever introduction for this topic, but came up short. Married or not, a growing trend in recent years has seen older adults choosing to maintain intimate relationships without living together. The phenomenon is known as Living Apart Together (LAT) and the concept has a particular appeal to older couples that have long-established routines and patterns that can cause friction in a relationship if cohabitation is compulsory. They also may have a strong desire to stay independent, maintain their own home, sustain existing family boundaries and remain financially independent.
LAT couples also say that the arrangement can help prevent relationships from becoming monotonous because they spend less time with their partners, and have to put more effort into planning activities together which can lead to more exciting adventures.
Of course there are some disadvantages. If one partner falls or doesn't come home because of a problem, the other partner may not immediately know about it. Also, there's no one to share the household chores, and if a health issue arises that requires hospitalization, a strict policy of "family only" can be invoked which cuts off the unmarried.
LAT couples account for around 10 percent of adults in Britain, which equates to more than one quarter of all of those not married or cohabiting. Similar figures are recorded for other countries in northern Europe including Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. Research suggests similar or even higher rates in southern Europe, although here LAT couples often remain in parental households. In Australia, Canada and the US representative surveys indicate that between 6 percent and 9 percent of the adult population has a partner who lives elsewhere.
In China, walking marriages have been increasingly common. A walking marriage refers to a type of temporary marriage in which male partners live elsewhere and make nightly visits. A similar arrangement in Saudi Arabia, called misyar marriage, also involves the husband and wife living separately but meeting regularly.
Last Friday I visited the AgeLab at MIT to participate in a driver simulation study. A researcher hooked me up to several EKG monitors and then placed me inside a simulator. The pseudo-car had a steering wheel, gas and brake pedals, and three large computer screens that served as my front and side windows. And then with little fanfare, I was off on a highway drive with instructions to stay in the left lane, keep the speed to no more than 65 mph, and to try not crashing into any of the cars ahead of me in the right and left lanes.
The test was divided into three parts and lasted one hour. I was tasked to perform two activities that induced stress while driving. The first was to recall a series of numbers that were being read aloud. The second was to look down at an electronic box sitting on my lap when the screen went blank, and click a button on the steering wheel to indicate the direction the light on the box wanted me to go (left or right).
Performing one task at a time didn’t prove very stressful and I managed to stay in control and not crash into anything. I couldn’t say the same when faced with doing both tasks when the sequence of activities was deliberately increased. The researcher who set up the test explained that they were measuring how people of various ages respond to distractions under pressure. He said that regardless of age the brain tends to focus on just one task when the pressure to do more than one thing at a time mounts.
My take from the simulation…driving and texting/talking on the cell phone at the same time is not a very good idea no matter how old you are. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says fatalities attributed to distracted driving, which includes texting, fiddling with GPS and even eating, increased by 8.8 percent in 2015. Auto insurance rates in Massachusetts this year are expected to increase between 3% and 6% because drivers are distracted by their smartphones and are crashing their cars more often.
In our consumer-oriented society it was bound to happen, a legendary rock star leverages his name to develop a retirement community. In this case, it is 70-year-old Jimmy Buffett who is using the Florida landscape in Daytona Beach to establish an active, 55+ adult community called Latitude Margaritaville.
The $1 billion project features 6,900 homes, 200,000 square-feet of retail stores, a band shell for live performances, and a free shuttle to the beach. It aims to rival the Villages, a planned city of nearly 160,000 people near Orlando.
The prospect of spending one’s golden years in a tequila-cheeseburger haze raises the question: is aging a natural process that should be accepted as inevitable, or is it pathologic, a disease that should be prevented and treated like cancer or diabetes?
One argument used against labeling aging as a disease is that aging is universal among humans. Everyone ages. In contrast ‘classical diseases’ never affect everyone in a population. However, what if we were suddenly hit by a pandemic? The infection would be called a disease while it was spreading around the globe. However, once everyone got it, it would be defined as a universal condition.
Which brings us back to Margaritaville, the tequila-cheeseburger induced haze, and the real debate going on between aging rock and rollers: who was the better band--the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?
It started as a typical trip to the barbershop. But when I got there and sat in the chair, it was anything but typical. I asked the barber to cut my hair a little shorter than usual.
“Do you have haircut insurance?” he asked.
“I never heard of such a thing?”
“It’s all the rage in Scotland. It’s included in their universal health care coverage.”
“No wonder health care costs are escalating there too and the government can no longer afford it. Why would anyone need haircut insurance?”
“It’s more dangerous for barbers to cut the hair of older people. They have a propensity for falling asleep in the chair and unexpectedly moving their heads. Sometimes we accidentally jab them with the scissors and have to rush them to the hospital.”
“That sounds awful. But I don’t think Medicare covers haircuts?”
“Then I’ll have to add a 3% surcharge to your bill to cover any extra costs that I may incur.”
“Is that legal?”
“If the Republicans can charge older people more for their insurance, I think it’s only fair that I can do the same with my customers.”
“I don’t get it. I’ve been coming to your shop for years and nothing bad has ever happened.”
“That is true. But the statistics don’t lie. Older people are more prone to injury. And you just turned 65.”
“Instead of discriminating against age, why don’t you just raise your price across the board?”
“That would be unfair to my younger customers. Why should they pay extra to support old people?”
“Because one day they will be old too and might not have the means to afford a haircut! Why don’t you just charge customers by the amount of time it takes? Older people tend to have less hair.”
“Look pal. Don’t be such a wise-ass. You can argue all you want, but I’ve already made up my mind. You have a choice now. You can stay and pay me the surcharge, go to another barber or perhaps skip getting a haircut altogether.”
At that point, I got up from the chair, stalked out of the shop, went home, turned on my computer, and tried to find a youtube video on how to cut hair.
With all of the muck being thrown around Washington these days regarding proposed changes to Medicare and Social Security, ConfrontingAging decided to keep it light this week. Also, when you have time, check-out the new design of our home page featuring a “News of the Day” section.
You Know You Are Old When…
1. You believe eating Honey Nut Cheerios is indulging. Buzzfeed
2. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they won't remember them. NobleWorks
3. You board an airplane and remember when they allowed smoking. USA Today
4. It takes several tries to get up from the couch. ElectricScotland
5. Happy Hour is a nap. ElectricScotland
6. You build a raised garden bed so you won’t have to bend down. Huffington Post
7. They discontinued your blood type. AVC
8. You move something important to a logical place and then forget where it is when you need it. Diabetes/UK
9. Your family decides to put just one candle on your birthday cake. Various
10. You look forward to watching Antiques Road Show. The Telegraph