Geriatric Marriages: Still Getting Along after 50-Plus Years

Happy older coupleBeing married to the same person for a long time can be quite an achievement. But for many older couples, the celebration of a long life together is overshadowed by health issues, caregiver stress, and lack of independence. Tensions can run high when one spouse is no longer able to care for themselves or tend to their partner’s needs the way they used to. But experts say there are a number of things that couples in their golden years, and their children can do to keep the marriage happy, healthy, and firing on all pistons. One of the first tips that experts give is for children, especially those who have assumed the role of caregiver, to butt out! “Couples who have been together for 60 years tend to have worked out ways to manage conflict – or they wouldn’t still be together,” said psychologist Dr. Gordon Herz from Wisconsin.

In fact, most experts agree that couples who could benefit from some third party direction would be better off consulting a relationship therapist rather than their own children. Some studies suggest marital therapy is most beneficial for older couples because that is when change is most difficult. Lifestyle changes, social changes and physical changes make the older years some of the most stressful. Marriage therapy can help individuals work through their challenges and continue to have a happy and healthy relationship.

Even if couples are struggling with physical and cognitive problems, intimacy is still one of the core elements of a strong relationship. Holding hands, cuddling, or engaging in an activity together can help couples bolster intimacy. But experts also warn not to spend too much time together. As couples age, they tend to be less active and spend more time with each other and not socializing with other people. This is particularly true if one spouse is disabled in some way. It is important for each spouse to take time to care for themselves and rejuvenate their bodies and minds so that they can be fully plugged in when they interact with each other. One recommendation is for spouses, especially those who feel dependent on others, to take time to volunteer in a way that allows them to feel productive and useful. This will improve their well-being and will spill over into their relationship with their spouse.

Seliger, Susan. In the middle: Helping unhappy couples. (n.d.): n. pag. The New York Times. 18 Dec. 2012. Web. 19 Dec. 2012.

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  • Leave a Comment
  • andrea timms

    December 24th, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    awww I love to see older couples who so obviously still care for one another so much!

    I hope my husband and I still feel the same way after all those years!

  • Powell

    December 24th, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    Not easy for a couple to last that long. But having done that is an achievement in itself. And that achievement could be used as a motivator I think.

    Doing things together is great.But I also loved your advice on taking time out for yourself.It helps to drive away the feeling that comes with spending too much time with the same person.And also gives you something to look forward to when you haven’t been with your partner.

  • andrea

    December 24th, 2012 at 11:53 PM

    Although conflicts may not occur with all the years spent together and knowing each other,every relationship needs something new to stay exciting.I think activities done together can help older couples in achieving that.

    And activities that involve both team work and mental or physical exercises can be two birds in one shot!


    December 25th, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    I’m surprised at the advice of seeking help outside of family and not from one’s children.Because my parents and I often discuss about many thing including their relationship.It helps that I read and am interested in psychology and marriage topics as a hobby,but maybe we need to relook?Is it the you-own-parent bias that is to blame?

  • jason

    December 26th, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    Now how many older couples do you know who will admit that the marriage could use some outside help? I think that most of them feel like they have gotten along just fine up until now and that they really don’t want to have anyone else nosing around in their business.

  • katherine

    December 26th, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    the fact that they are still together is an a time when every second marriage is ending in separation,staying together for decades is nothing short of a feat.if they realize this it will only add to their energy and commitment to stay together and stay happy :)

  • freddie

    December 26th, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    well it can tough but sticking to the same things you did and enjoyed together as a young/middle age couple even in older years could is the very thought of growing old that can cause problems which can easily get into marriage and relationship with your partner too.stay strong mentally and do the same things,it would really change how you see your relationship.just because you are now physically a little weaker does not mean your relationship has become weaker too!

  • Maria

    December 28th, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    Thank you for the article.Marriage,even after many decades of its existence,needs work.While the priorities and responsibilities of the partners and their roles towards each other may change,it still needs work from both the partners.That is what makes any partnership work in fact and marriage is a long term partnership.It wouldn’t be right to think that only the initial stages of a relationship needs work.I would even go on to say LIFE itself needs constant work.Without work there isn’t any reward,no matter what the context!

  • Suzanne

    December 28th, 2012 at 11:23 PM

    While there may be nothing new to discover about your partner after decades of marriage, there still is that love and bond that exists. And that is the most important thing if you ask me. Seeing my parents together after 40 years of their marriage makes me so very happy! They may know every negative about each other but the care and concern they still display warms my heart. i just wish I can have such a long and happy marriage int he future too.

  • triva d

    December 29th, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    You would have to have some kind of stable marriage if you are able to stay with someone this long! Either that or nerves of steel!

  • Annie

    December 29th, 2012 at 2:39 PM

    I love to see old couples that symbolize love is a time when marriages end at the drop of a hat it really must be special to be with someone for so many years and yet continue to love and care for them. The bond itself may make the relationship stronger as it ages..

  • Alexis

    December 30th, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    I look to my grandparents marriage as what I wish to emulate when I find “the one”. It’s not fancy or outlandish, but it’s happy and one that anyone would want who wants it truly last forever.

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