I came across the topic of marriage in a gerontology textbook today. The book cited many studies that purport to show that marriage has a large number of advantages for older couples—that, for example, it has financial benefits, makes it easier to secure insurance, and decreases loneliness. I found one claim in the discussion particularly interesting, namely that marriage improved health and life satisfaction as couples aged.
I started to wonder if having a husband or wife as a close friend was benefitial in the stages of life at which social activity decreases. The difference between staying at home alone, and staying at home with your best friend could be really significant.
I know we have spent some time looking for the utility and meaning of marriage, and I was curious what you all thought about adding this to the mix.
Keeping your mind active as you get older is a huge part of staying alert and not having your mental abilities decrease. I am sure that having someone to talk to and interact with must make a huge difference in brain activity. My only question is whether the sort of connection people who are married to each other have with one another increases the benefits of having company. If I were to do sudoku, solve crossword puzzles, and read every day, or if I were to talk at length with complete strangers every day, mightn't that benefit me as much as doing the same things if I'm married and do them with my partner?
I have a friend who is in his 60s. He recently retired, and lives with his 86-year-old mother. He got her to start playing bridge when she was in her 60s, because he had read that people who played bridge were less likely to get Alzheimer's. That makes me think it's less about the connection between spouses or close friends and more about keeping your mind active. If you and a loved one were sitting watching T.V. all day, barely interacting if indeed you were interacting at all, I don't think it'd be all that different from watching T.V. all day alone. I believe having company could definitely make it more likely that you interact and keep your mind active, but I don't see that it guarantees it.
I wonder if this is linked only to marriage. Isn't it really about companionship? I definitely don't think that if I were older, I would want to spend my life alone. I think community and friendship are important to many people. Sometimes even our sanity depends on them.
Alex, I agree to an extent. I do agree that companionship can be very important, but marriage is something that is cherishable. It isn't for everyone, but I believe that when people do get married they do so because they cannot live without one another. I do know that there are circumstances where this isn't true, but normally marriage is based on love, companionship, and a life comittment.
This is the topic I chose to write my paper on. One question I had in mind concerned people who spend their entire lives wanting to be with someone but who can't do it because of their geographic locations, or because of the wishes of their parents, friends, or others, or because of their professional and personal lives, and so on. Obviously such love exists. It may be commoner in cases like these than it is in the case of actual married couples.