About Sara Yogev


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Love as you retire and age

Love As We Retire and Age

Meaningful loving connections are just as important to seniors as they are to younger people. Our desire for closeness and intimacy changes over time, yet it doesn’t disappear. At any age, we need companionship, human connection, closeness, and someone to share our daily feelings, thoughts, and activities with. A recent study in the UK found that individuals aged fifty to eighty-nine who were engaged in intimate activities and experienced emotional closeness, had higher quality of life levels. Intimacy in all forms, physical and emotional, has a powerful impact on our wellbeing as it sustains and nurtures us.

It is no surprise then that both men and women in midlife and late adulthood attribute great importance to their spousal role, considering it to be second in importance after their role of parent.

At any age, the quality of our spousal relationship matters. Loving connection is the best antidote to loneliness and isolation, which, according to research, has negative effects on physical and mental health. For both genders of senior, strong and satisfying emotional bonds between spouses are closely related to life satisfaction and a sense of wellbeing. As I wrote in my book A Couples’ Guide to Happy Retirement and Aging, “Being a partner in a loving relationship confers protection from health problems and emotional difficulties associated with aging.”

A high degree of agreement between spouses in aspects of daily life, good conversations, and the identification of the spouse as a confidant are significantly associated with lower levels of loneliness. (Loneliness is associated with pessimistic views about the future, depression, high blood pressure, and heart diseases. Chronic loneliness may shorten life expectancy even more than being overweight or smoking, as lonely people are less likely to be active and more likely to overeat.) Conflict and strain can impact general health and age-related diseases, such as coronary heart disease. Additionally, marital dissention increases the risk of depression and loneliness, resulting in low life satisfaction. Therefore, it is important to help retirement-age individuals minimize relationship discord, increase relationship satisfaction, and lean toward good and loving relationships with a strong sense of intimacy, both emotionally and physically.


Passion doesn’t belong only to the young generation. Many older adults continue to engage in sex well into their sixties, seventies, and even eighties. Indeed, 55 percent of men age sixty to eighty, and 23 percent of women of that age, report sexual satisfaction either by penetration or mutual caresses. (The lower percentage of women is attributed in part to lack of partners). Research found that seniors who engage in frequent sex are more likely to live longer. A word of caution is needed here; it could be that healthier seniors who have a loving partnership are more likely to have sex rather than assuming that sex by itself increases longevity.

Having sex releases endorphins and other hormones that help people feel better and even reduce pain. Regular sex also keeps circulation flowing to the genitals, which in itself boosts pleasure. Older men need more touching to get an erection (which might not be as hard as the erections they had in their youth) and older women need more touching to get lubricated. Testosterone supplements or other drugs, like Viagra, and vaginal lubricant may be helpful at this life stage.

Seniors often have medical problems (e.g., high blood pressure or joint pain), which may limit traditional positions of sexual activity. Different medications can also cause side effects that lower libido. However, aging individuals can remain sexually active in spite of the physiological changes. Because sensuality is an important part of life for seniors, orgasms become less important. Mutual expressions of loving, like intimate skin to skin contact, caresses, and heavy petting, can replace penetration. Sexual activity doesn’t need to stop; it may only need to be altered.

Established Relationships

All couples who have been together for a while establish patterns around many areas of their lives. For these couples, retirement and aging bring new challenges: how to spend time together and apart, division of housework, relationships with children and grandchildren, as well as how they deal with money and travel. All these issues need to be renegotiated. Much like how the birth of the first child changes marital dynamics, lack of employment brings new issues to the forefront that often cause friction. Indeed, research clearly shows that the retirement transition causes a decline in marital satisfaction in the first two years post-retirement, with both men and women reporting more conflicts and annoyance with their spouse.

Physical decline, like lack of mobility and declining health that come with aging, often means that you need to rely more on your partner in a way that was not there in earlier years, and this change can add pressure. Couples should be willing to openly talk about these changes and address what is difficult for them, as well as what they would like to see happen. For example, a wife is uncomfortable with her husband’s insistence on continuing to drive and inability to let her be the primary driver (particularly at night), even though his vision has greatly deteriorated.

Communication with minimal criticism is very important because criticism often leads to power struggles about who is right and who is wrong. Such communication patterns ruin the best intentions and damage the most loving relationships. Couples have to be prepared to have disagreements and different opinions and wishes as they age. They have to be willing to address them so that issues can be resolved. It is important to remember that there are no right or wrong answers—each couple needs to find the compromise that works best for their specific situation. It is important to align and adjust expectations as much as possible. At the same time, remember that even when differences remain, it doesn’t mean it is bad relationship or that they were not meant to be together or that the relationship should be terminated.

Retirement can mean more time to spend with a partner, yet increased time together can bring tension and friction to the surface and weaken even the strongest ties. Therefore, the increased time together must be combined with a revised understanding of what time together and time apart mean, taking into account the needs of each partner and giving each other space so there is a connection but not smothering.

For a couple I worked with, the wife was no longer willing to adjust her schedule according to the husband’s preferences (as was the case while he was working and traveling a lot). This post-retirement change was perceived by her husband as rejection—he feared that now that he no longer brought home money, it meant she didn’t value him, love him, or enjoy his company. He didn’t perceive it as her need to have more time alone due to being an introverted person, which she was able to have when he was traveling for work.

Creating mutual goals and activities to do together helps alleviate the differences around many of these issues.

Marital dynamics improve when partners understand each other’s point of view, what their partner is feeling or where they are coming from or what they are going through. They can figure out solutions that take into account their different needs and preferences.

For couples who are willing to address these challenges, the third age can bring much happiness, intimacy, and even stronger loving relationship than what they had in the past.

New Relationships

As mentioned above, emotional intimacy with a significant caring partner is very important for older adults—it can reduce loneliness and social isolation and enhance longevity. It is no surprise that divorced or widowed seniors seek new love relationships. Older people often know who they are, what they like, and what’s important to them in a significant romantic relationship. They are willing to let go of an idealized romantic fantasy of the perfect mate. Thus, their relationships tend to be more mature and realistic. As an eighty-two-year-old widow who was involved in a new romantic relationship told a New York Times reporter, “old love is wiser, quieter, yet absolutely as intense” and “growing old together can be as exciting as falling in love for the first time in one’s youth.”

Indeed, new forms of relationships that are viable alternatives to traditional marriages, like cohabitation and living apart together (which are discussed in chapter 13 of my book), are rising rapidly among the sixty-plus age group. In 2000, 1.2 million couples were engaged in such relationships; this number grew to 2.75 million in 2010 and to more than 3.3 million in 2013. These unions allow independence and privacy, while at the same time offer companionship, intimacy, and a stable loving relationship.

It is unfortunate that often there are obstacles to these older romances. Grown children or other family members can exhibit lack of support or even opposition for seniors entering new romantic connections. They worry rightly or wrongly that the new partner might be a “gold digger” who will endanger their inheritance. In other instances, they may have a difficult time accepting a new member into the family out of loyalty to the deceased or divorced one.

Ageism is another obstacle. Society is more comfortable with the notion that older people are no longer interested in sex or romance—public displays of affection between seniors make many uncomfortable. Sadly, some seniors hold this view too; they will not seek new relationships or will be reluctant to let the relationship be public and known to their family and friends, keeping it a secret.

In summary, it’s time to rethink aging love as a very important component of seniors’ lives regardless of how long the relationship has been going on.

Gray Divorce

The recent announcement about the divorce of Bill and Melinda Gates ignited again the interest in the Gray Divorce phenomena.

Though there is a decline in the overall divorce rate in the United States, the divorce rate for adults 50 and older, often referred to as “gray divorce,” is on the rise. According to findings from the 2017 Pew Research Center the divorce rate for people aged 50 and above has doubled since the 1990s. And for people aged 65 and above, it has tripled over that same time period. Gray divorce in the older population is often fueled by major life transitions, like ‘empty nesting’ or more significantly retirement, in addition to poor quality of marriage which is the reason for divorces in all age groups

It is important to know that compared to those whose spouse died, people who went through a gray divorce had worse feelings of depression.

Here are additional facts related to Gray Divorce:

  • About 1% of married Americans over age 50 get divorced each year.
  • 55% of gray divorces involve couples who have been married for 20 years.
  • Remarried couples are 2.5 times more likely to divorce compared to couples in a first marriage; thus, ending in as “gray divorce.”              
  • The percentage of the population of 65 years and older who were divorced in 2018 was greater than 10%
  • Women 63 and older who went through a gray divorce have a poverty rate of 27% compared to only 11% for men of the same age who went through gray divorce.
  • Divorced women aged 50 and above saw their living standards drop to 45%, compared to a 21% drop for men above 50.
  • The odds of a gray divorce were about 38% lower for couples with more than $250,000 in assets, compared with those with $0 to 50,000.
  • More than 1 in 10 seniors across 133 cities is divorced
  • Denver has the highest rate of gray divorces – at 28% of residents 65 and older.

Financial Implications of Gray Divorce

Gray divorcees tend to be less financially secure than married and widowed older adults. Divorce, at any age, is often accompanied by financial considerations, and may be financially damaging , However, gray divorce may lead to even more financial insecurity especially for women, as individuals are less likely to be working and have a less steady income stream. Even senior divorcees who are still working, are closer to retirement and in turn have a smaller time period over which to save and recover financially.

The three most important financial considerations for seniors getting divorced are Social Security and Medicare, retirement savings and long-term care.

Reasons for the Increasing Prevalence of Gray Divorce

Several factors have contributed to the rise of gray divorce rates over the past 30 years. The climbing rate stems from a host of societal factors.
In its 2017 study by the Pew Research Center links increases in gray divorce to the aging of baby boomers, the generation made up of individuals born between 1946 and 1964. Specifically, baby boomers had high levels of divorce during their young adulthood, and marriage instability earlier in life has continued later in life. Given that remarriage tend to be less stable than first marriages, the divorce rate for adults ages 50 and older in remarriages is double the rate for those who have only been married once. Additionally, divorce risk is higher among couples who have been married for shorter periods of time.

While the greater frequency of remarrying among baby boomers partially explains the increase in gray divorce, it is important to note that a significant share of gray divorces occur among couples who have been married for 30 years and longer.

Another factor contributing to this increase divorce rate is change in divorce stigma. Research has shown that with general attitudes toward divorce becoming more relaxed the stigma of divorce is decreasing. Those who have grown unsatisfied with their marriages may be more likely to choose to leave. In today’s world, women are more empowered and educated. Additionally, the reduced divorce stigma is giving women more freedom to walk away from a less-than-ideal or emotionally draining situation.

Longer Life Expectancies are also upping the stakes for women who are unhappy in their marriages. Better medical treatments, more health care awareness and enlightenment around what will help us live longer have also extended the years spent together in marriage. For a 55-year-old woman, her marriage may last another 30 years, or even more. This ups the ante for those in unhappy marriages and may prompt them to question whether they can put up with their spouse for that much longer.

Postponed Divorces: Some adults admit that they stay in their marriage to set an example for their children, and to keep a united family unit while raising them. This causes unhappy couples to put off divorce until kids are grown and possibly even starting families of their own. When couples who stay together “for the kids” are free from the day-to-day responsibilities of raising children, new light is shed on the relationship, and a late-life re-evaluation of their marriage may come to the forefront of their thinking.

Repeat Divorces: Some Baby Boomers are on their 2nd, 3rd or even 4th marriage. Studies show that these marriages tend to have lower success rates. The divorce rate for people over 50 who have been married more than once is 2.5 times higher than those who have been coupled with the same person throughout their life. This high divorce rate is a significant reason why it is recommended that couples should enter into prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, especially if they have been married before.

Retirement. With Americans staying healthier and living longer, the retirement years stretch out, giving couples more time together. Among many couples, retirement often creates friction and weakens even the strongest ties. The increased amount of time spouses spend together, when one or both are retired, can exacerbate existing problems & bring tensions to the surface. Without child- raising duties and demanding job responsibilities to provide structure, distraction, space away from each other – people are more vulnerable to conflict. It becomes much more difficult to ignore or avoid addressing long-term unresolved issues as well as newly created ones. Many retirement age adults refuse to settle for loveless retirement years filled with marital discord frustrations and disappointments.

General Dissatisfaction and COVID.   We can also blame some of the most recent rising divorce rates on the COVID pandemic. “The unexpected in-home isolation puts a sharper focus on issues in the marriage that may have otherwise been overlooked. Loss of income, employment and separate routines that allowed healthy time away from each other have produced an unbearable situation. With these additional pressures, some marriages are crumbling under the added stress.

Different reasons why men and women divorce in their senior years.

Men are more likely to end a marriage in middle age to either pursue another relationship or engage more fully in a relationship they are involved in already – similar to the midlife crisis stereotype: men chasing youth by feeling desired, often by younger women. Some men also say they have fallen out of love, and they want to afford themselves the opportunity to find love again before their time runs out. Their reasons tend to be based on what they feel is missing in their marriage, which they feel they can discover in another relationship.

On the other hand, women who initiate breakups in their middle to late years are often looking to change their lives and their reasons are more experiential. Often these women have had it with their spouses and are ready to get away from all the tension and fighting. They ask themselves “I may have another 25-35 years to live, do I want to spend it with this person?” Others have described that they still feel quite young in their 50s and 60s and that their husbands seem older and less energetic. They tend to be the spouses seeking new careers, new adventures and new opportunities. They may start a business or get in shape or move to another part of the world. Some of these women are not even picturing future relationships they just want out.

In summary it is clear that if possible it is best to try and avoid gray divorce for emotional and financial reasons. Preparing for retirement and life in the “third age” can help to align expectations. Reading books like “A Couples’ Guide to Happy Retirement and Aging” and having good conversations about life ahead can help individuals to improve their marriages and wellbeing and avoid becoming part of the gray divorce statistics .

Facebook Live Book Talk June 11, 2020

The Impact of Retirement on Couple’s Relationships (Guest Blog post at Marianne Oehser’s retireandbehappy.com/blog)

In contrast to the extensive time people usually devote to financial planning for retirement, they often neglect to plan for the psychological aspect of this life stage. Marianne Oehser calls it your Happiness Portfolio®.

Related to that is the complete lack of awareness of the impact retirement has on the couple’s dynamics, which can be compared to the impact of the birth of the first child on the couple’s dynamics. Only at the earlier life stage couples are usually more prepare – aware of the changes and willing to discuss them.

Indeed, both genders report in the first two years post-retirement low marital satisfaction and a higher level of conflict. The Gray Divorce phenomena – divorce among the 50+ years old — might be related to retirement. It is growing at an alarming pace while overall divorce rates are getting lower. A June 21 2019 article in the Wall Street Journal reported that the rates of gray divorce more than doubled; for the 55-64 years old, it climbed from 5 divorces per 1000 to 15 divorces per 1000 and for those 65 and older it rose from 1.8 to 5. Furthermore, the expectation is that there will be 800,000 divorced individuals in 2030 that are 50+. These statistics might be related to the lack of preparation or awareness of the difficulties retirement poses on the marital dynamics.

In all marriages, even stable and long-term ones, couples need to be ready and willing to renegotiate a lot of issues when one or both partners retire. Time together and apart, division of housework, relationship with adult children and grandchildren are only a few examples.

Emotional intimacy with a significant other is the most important relationship for older adults – it reduces loneliness and social isolation and it enhances longevity.

Loneliness has strong negative health influences. The quality of a couple’s relationship is most important for seniors because in the third age strong and satisfying emotional bonds between spouses are closely related to life satisfaction as well as health. A high degree of agreement between spouses in several aspects of daily life, overall life goals, good conversations and the identification of the spouse as confidant are significantly associated with lower levels of loneliness and overall higher levels of life satisfaction. Therefore, it is very important for retirement age individuals to have good marriages or relationships with their significant other.

In retirement, there is increased time together, and it can weaken even the strongest ties as it brings tension and friction to the surface. For example, annoying habits of the partner are more glaring – his “addiction to news” watching news on multiple channels, or her repeating the same story to different friends she talks on the phone. In addition, unresolved issues of the past must be addressed as there is no distraction from them.

Communication is very important. Thus couples ought to be ready to discuss their expectations and preferences, to be prepared for disagreements and be willing to address them so that issues can be resolved. There are no right or wrong preferences here. There is only a need to align and adjust expectations- having differences doesn’t mean it is a bad relationship. Getting aligned will get the relationship to a stronger more satisfying place.

Article in Forbes.com and Next Avenue “How Tech Can Make Retirement Harder For Couples”

Next Avenue and Forbes published an article about the impact of technology on aging couples using material on this subject from Chapter 14 of my book. Here is a link to the article:

How Tech Can Make Retirement Harder For Couples

My interview at the Transitioning Into Retirement Symposium

I would like to invite you to listen to my interview as part of a virtual symposium called Transitioning Into Retirement. The event aired Feb 13-15, 2018.

Here is a link which allows you to register and also get more details about the different speakers and topics.
Transitioning Into Retirement Symposium

In addition I would like to take this opportunity to let you know that the third edition of my book entitled “A Couple’s Guide to Happy Retirement and Aging; 15 keys to long- lasting vitality and connection” is now available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook editions.  You can order it here or by clicking on the cover in the sidebar.  In this third edition I updated many of the previous chapters and added three new chapters about Alcohol Consumption, Technology Impact, and New Unions of Cohabitation and Living Apart Together.


Helpful resources

I have been contacted by several people who shared  helpful information for retirement age people and I would like to re-share them in this updated blog entry.

Susan Williams from seniorcarehelper.org sent me the following links:
– Moving tips for seniors in www.yourstoragefinder.com
– Aging in place and how to prepare for senior years in www.homecity.com  – Making the move to assisted living in www.helpguide.org, use search phrase assisted living to list multiple resources
– Nutrition guide for the aging in www.retailmenot.com/blog/nutrition

Nicole Clark sent me an article which reaffirms my concerns about alcohol abuse trends in older adults: Alcohol Abuse Trends in Older Adults, published in The Dunes of East Hampton.

Jane Sandwood from England sent me the link to her article about the importance of staying in touch with grandparents
Jane who is a manager for a small elderly care site is concerned that modern life with different generations moving around, has left families being stretched and the elderly being isolated and the isolation can cause depression. Her article covers why we should get in touch with grandparents and bring families together.

Audrey Baker recommended  A Family’s Guide to Caring for Aging Parents.

I hope you will find these resources helpful.

How to retire without driving your spouse crazy

The Wall Street Journal in their Encore section on November 28 2016 had an article about the above mentioned subject and my book was quoted there. Here is the link to the article
enjoy reading

How men and women retire

An interesting article in The Boston Globe by Ami Albernaz.

Just Between Us – Must-Know Secrets for Couples About Retirement

Listen to Sara’s talk with Jackie Black, PH.D., BCC about Couples Retirement on WebTalkRadio on Oct 19, 2015: