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Many older adults choosing cohabitation over marriage

August 16, 2012

Even though older adults are becoming more likely to use online dating, fewer have made getting married a part of senior living. Instead, they are living with their partner without tying the knot. Researchers from Bowling Green State University found the number of unmarried adults over 50 more than doubled between 2000 and 2010.

The statistics were drawn from the 1998 to 2006 Health and Retirement Study along with the 2000 and 2010 Current Population Survey, which revealed that in 2000 about 1.2 million unmarried older adults were cohabitating. Ten years later, the number reached about 2.75 million.

Even though they're not getting married, the survey revealed unhitched older adults living together have similarly strong relationships. During the span of the study, only about 18 percent of the couples broke up. Some researchers are not surprised by the phenomenon, believing that living together offers many of the same benefits of marriage without some of the more complicated financial issues that could come with it.

"Older adults desire an intimate partnership, but without the legal constraints marriage entails," said lead author Dr. Susan Brown.

While this trend is something older adults share with younger generations, the two groups differ on many other aspects of dating. Primarily, seniors and young adults look for different things when they log on to popular dating websites, a separate study from Bowling Green found.

The attitude is reflected in large part by older women, researchers say. While young adults may be more likely to put up with hesitation on the part of their prospective date, that's not the case for seniors.

"They are less likely to play games," Dr. Charlie Stelle said. "They want to make a decision quickly and cut their losses, because they have learned life is too short for dating games."