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The Handbook of Lifespan Communication


Jon F. Nussbaum

The Handbook of Lifespan Communication is the foundational scholarly text that offers readers a state of the art view of the varied and rich areas of lifespan communication research. The fundamental assumptions of lifespan communication are that the very nature of human communication is developmental, and, to truly understand communication, change across time must be incorporated into existing theory and research. Beginning with chapters on lifespan communication theory and methodologies, chapters are then organized into the various phases of life: early childhood, adolescence, emerging adulthood, middle adulthood, and older adulthood. Top scholars across several disciplines have contributed to chapters within their domains of expertise, highlighting significant horizons that will guide researchers for years to come.
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Chapter Nineteen: The Socially and Sexually Active Later-Life Family Member




The role and expectations of the later-life family member are changing in contemporary society. Older family members are living longer, healthier, and far more active lives than at any other time in history. As the Baby Boomers age, they are expected to be in better health and to live longer than any other cohort of older Americans (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). By 2030, 20% of our population will be between the ages of 60 and 85. In other words, it is estimated that 1 in 5 people will be over the age of 60 in 2030. We are also finding that as we age, the number of divorced people over the age of 60 is on the rise. The divorce rate for those over 50 has doubled since 1990 (“U.S. Population Predictions,” 2008). For example, in 1990, 1 in 10 older individuals was divorced; more recently it is 1 in 4 (“U.S. Population Predictions,” 2008). As a result, we are seeing the “graying of American divorce,” in which later-life divorce has become a more common occurrence. In the past, when we thought of a single older family member, their singlehood was typically a result of widowhood, not divorce. For example, one of the first articles that explored dating among older adults examined dating and remarriage only among individuals who were widowed (Cooney & Dunne, 2001).

Since we are seeing an increase in the number of divorces among later-life adults, we...

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