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Why More Older Couples are Cohabiting

Remarried, widowed or cohabiting, unmarried seniors living together is now the thing! Nowadays, cohabitation is not shocking at all. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, cases of unmarried couples living together is rising rapidly in the US. There are already 18 million in 2016 and it is expected to climb in the next coming years. And most them are older adults. It just means that this is absolutely a common case to encounter not just in America but in all corner of the universe.

A story of older adults featured in the New York Times is a perfect example. Karen Kanter and Stan Tobin, both in their senior years, are practicing cohabitation. They both live in Philadelphia and are in a relationship since 2002. They are living under the same roof since 2004, but again, they are not married to each other. Ms. Kanter said that they really love each other and they are tied with loyalty and promise to be together until their last breath.

Like others, they are living a typical life. They do what normal married couples do and share ordinary moments with each other. They watch movies, go to parks and play together. They also visit their children and grandchildren and eat in restaurants.  Also, they spend time together on groceries. So nothing is different compared to the married ones. Ms. Kanter is busy between art groups and books while writing a historical novel. She is a retired teacher as well. On the other hand, Mr. Tobin is an accountant who still works with taxes but also makes time for monthly men’s group. Years ago, he supported his partner all throughout her treatment for breast cancer. And that’s absolutely a big thing for the couple. It’s only one of the millions of stories we can hear from unmarried couples. Each and every story may differ, but surely, the bottom line is, married or not, if you really love your partner, nothing will change. Cohabitation among older adults aged 50 and above rose by around 74 percent from 2007 to 2016, according to Pew Research Center.

Why Older Adults are Living-in

There are various reasons why the increase of unmarried couples happens. It can be based on different experiences. The lonesome single life can be the reason why many older adults are looking for a partner to cohabit with and not marry. Some who have been married and got divorced probably don’t want to remarry because they are already contented with just having a good company. Time also is a big factor. When people think that it’s already too late to marry, they might just decide to not do the ceremony but still commit to being together. Unfortunately, some reasons are considered okay, and some are not. For instance, many are still unmarried because they are not sure if they already met the person they want to be with for the rest of their lives. Some people find it hard to decide whether to marry or not. This is acceptable since life after marriage is not that easy. And we would not want to be tied to the person we’re still not sure if we can be with for the rest of our days.

Past Experiences May be a Factor

Related to this is the opinion of Deborah Carr. She said that attitudes about marriage also changes based on experience. Those who already went through a divorce already have a different view of relationships after marriage. And these things really affect people’s view of marriage. Unmarried seniors living together are usually those who just found their real partner in life. Another thing is that because they are together for how many years now, they are already content with what they have. They are very open to just ditch the ring. It’s possible because some don’t believe in marriage or maybe they do but witnessed married couples splitting in the end, making them more pessimistic about marriage. It may look the same for them. Married or not, the result may just be similar.

Divorce causes “partnering” in the later part. And most of the person involved is older age. That’s why older couples are shacking up. About 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the US divorce. The divorce rate every year gets even higher.

Mr. Tobin and Ms. Kanter also experienced being in a long marriage, but still ended up being unmarried but in a relationship with each other. Ms. Kanter had gone through two divorces before she met her partner on She even said that getting divorced gives you the freedom and so much to unravel. Also, she can’t see the point of a piece of paper dictating that you can only be with one person. For Karen, her life with Stan is great; she doesn’t want to disturb it anymore. Mr. Tobin had been married and got a divorced as well. He also thinks of proposing to Mr. Kanter, but then he knows that his partner won’t agree, so he just goes with the flow and accepted cohabiting with her. For him, it is not suffocating. Although they live together, he still has his own life and the same with Karen. They don’t demand each other’s time which they both find amazing.

Cohabitation Prevents Isolation

For people in old age, the advantages and disadvantages can appear differently when compared to when you are still young. It’s because you know then that you are in a more unstable relationship. Demographers look at early cohabitation for younger people as an introduction to marriage or even what we call short-term relationship. Later, however, remarriage brings a wider social circle or groups and of course companionship at the age when people may encounter more of isolation. Cohabitation is also a more practical way of surviving life when you are older. This can help you be financially stable since you have someone to combine your resources with. It is easier to live this stage with someone especially when poverty and loss of independence are most likely when an older adult is alone.

Cohabitation has Economic Benefits and Disadvantages

Cohabitation also has an effect on an older adult’s finance as they tend to be submerged in debt more often than younger adults. According to Carr, when you are an older adult, you may have to take responsibility for your children’s college loans and mortgages, so when you are married, your partner or legal spouse can help you with this unlike if you are not, your cohabiting partner have no responsibility to take. Unmarried seniors living together prefer their new lifestyle because cohabitation also has positive effects in their pension and government benefits. Like in the case of Jane Carney and Norm Stoner, who were both widowed and are now living in Oklahoma City. Even though they have been cohabiting for years, they are still thinking and debating about whether to make their union legal.  According to Ms. Carney, the list of disadvantages is extremely long compared to the short list of the advantages. The major disadvantage if they tie the knot would be losing their social security benefits. Because both are receiving survivor benefits from social security, their benefits will stop if they remarry.

Cohabitation is Good for Health Care, Bad of Adult Kids

There are many factors to count why unmarried couples are not marrying. Carr said that compared to living alone, it is better to cohabitate since there will be someone who can check on your health and vice versa. Couples can assist each other mentally, physically, emotionally and financially while living the rest of their years together. However, cohabiters have a less contact with their children. Their relationship with their sons and daughters sometimes suffer, according to a report from Matthew Wright, a doctoral sociology student studying at Bowling Green State University. He also added that cohabiters have a less positive relationship with their adult children compared to those widowed parents and married couples. Although it’s somehow like remarrying and being divorced, still, cohabiting affects their adult children knowing that their parents have a relationship with no label and legalities.

A big factor is also when it comes to caring for each other. The vow a married couple does is far more important than anything else in the ceremony. It is when couples promised to take care and love each other for the rest of their life. Frankly, cohabiters care less than a spouse. A married person can devote most of his or her time to his partner.

Do children have a say on this? Most of them don’t step in, especially because they know that one way to respect your parent is to respect their decisions. But does it mean they can’t take part on this? They can. If they believe cohabiting will not improve or benefit their parent’s relationship, then that’s the time they can tell their mom or dad they do not approve of it. And as far as children are concerned, for sure, parents will also try to lend their ears occasionally. Although there are no strong established rules for unmarried couples, still at the end of the day, it is their say and will. If they find it good for them, then no one can dictate nor object.

The freedom to choose is instilled in every individual. The ability to decide is a gift, and the opportunity to make a change is always there. Currently, most of us consider cohabitation as something usual and very common. To accept it or not is depends on you. But for those who believe, especially unmarried seniors living together, they are enjoying their relationship status and no one has the right to interfere and break that smile planted on their faces.

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