The Law and Living

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Later life singlehood will befall many of us. Becoming a widow or widower is an event that at least one partner in a marriage will experience at some time.

For some of us, and often suddenly, life comes a full circle.  We are faced with many options we never had in our married lives – the sort we had in our late teens and twenties – opportunities to pursue, innumerable choices , things to look forward to – all propelling us into the world of the future.

Those who grasp the chance are said to be ‘ageing positively’. All indications are that this approach will aid in a longer, happier life and be an antidote to the common ravages of ageing. Yet, despite the vistas opening up in this later life landscape, many of us, not so much by choice but more by default, retreat or, as I sometimes describe it, marinate in inertia. .

There are many reasons for this:

  • A permanent consuming grief at the loss of a long term partner
  • Skill sets long lost or even redundant
  • Low self esteem
  • Feeling irrelevant or unwanted
  • A sense of being surplus to requirements
  • Physical preservation and aversion to risk

Even rejection can play a part. A client recently told me that they had applied to volunteer for an organisation and, despite being eminently qualified, was belatedly told in a one line email they were unwanted.

One of the pervading manifestations of this inertia and the scourge of many later life singles is the quiet and insidious malaise of loneliness.

It is true that all of us can experience this emotion throughout our lives. However, as an elder lawyer, I can say that is a particularly common and virulent feeling in many of my older clients. And it is no respecter of gender – both older women and men are equally susceptible.

Once it takes hold, it can dominate our lives and thinking. It can transform our personality and test our ‘reason to be’. It can cause us to do things we would never have done previously – like fall in love on line and EFT hundreds of thousands of dollars to some love rat in the wilds of Equitorial Guinea.

As a result, I am now happy to say that we are trying to do our bit as lawyers for the lonely to help them resist the urge. We have recently introduced into our new client agenda, an item called ‘life and living’. In our discussions with our older clients we traverse the adjustment they have to make to singlehood and the sorts of things they might consider and the options they have as part of their positive singlehood journey.

We are not trying to supplant the role played by families in helping parents through the transition. Rather we are trying to give some direction or agenda to focus on to help them adjust to this challenging time.

If you want to talk to a lawyer who has seen a lot of later life and living and how to take control and use the opportunity well, we are happy to share our experiences.

Brian Herd

Recognised as one of the leading experts in Australia on elder law, aged care, retirement, estate planning and disability and a regular author, broadcaster and popular presenter on many elder law subjects and issues.