Even with baby boomers retiring and greater media and research attention being lavished on older people, most gerontologists have studiously avoided examining romance among the elderly. Love Stories of Later Life is an appealing and eye-opening remedy to this neglect, as leading gerontologist Amanda Smith Barusch presents original research into what love and romance mean in seniors’ lives. The result is a glimpse into a world many people didn’t know existed – that of romantic love in later life.
Unlike superficial guidebooks that purport to help seniors find a new mate, Love Stories of Later Life integrates theory and the latest research on love and the aging process. Drawing on a wealth of personal narratives collected during a landmark five-year study, the book presents the lived experiences of older adults from all walks of life. It addresses the impact of common age-related changes, both emotional and physical, on romantic relationships, and argues that love continues to sculpt our personalities and our lives, even in life’s later decades. Each chapter includes practical tools for the serious student of love, including exercises designed to increase self-awareness and relationship-building as well as annotated lists of suggested reading that are at once comprehensive and accessible.
Barusch’s fresh perspective, engaging voice, and in-depth qualitative research make Love Stories of Later Life an important contribution to the study of individual lives and the aging process. This book will guide gerontologists, social workers, and counselors as they in turn help their older clients navigate love’s challenges.
Order my book: Love Stories of Later Life
Why Study Love?
Why would a social worker study romantic love among older adults? Since the publication of my book, Love Stories of Later Life, I’ve faced this question more times than I can count. The most authentic answer might be, “Because I could.” I had tenure, and could afford to take the risk – which brings up an interesting digression into why the study of romance is a risky proposition. The more accurate response might be, “Because I wanted to.” I have always been fascinated by romance and wondered what late life might have to offer. Read the full article (PDF).
More Resources on Love:
Here’s a chapter on intimacy I wrote with Lenard Kaye for A Man’s Guide to Healthy Aging.
Here’s a show I did on infatuation and betrayal with Rabbi Richard Address. (My interview starts 30 minutes in.)
Watch my interview: Faculty Facetime with Professor of Love
In 2015, Henry Rayhons was charged with (and acquitted of) raping his wife in a nursing home. This case, along with other instances of thwarted romance in nursing homes, underscores the complications of romantic love in residential care and the crying need for good policies and staff training. The Hebrew Home at Riverside operates under exemplary policies related to intimacy of their residents. You will find them here.
Here is a link to Bloomberg coverage of the Rayhons case.