Relationships between Women in Later Life


Researchers and practitioners will welcome Roberto’s collection of 11 studies of women’s experience of relationships in later life that were simultaneously published in fournu2 of Women and Aging. The investigators describe patterns of relationships that women have with one another and others, ranging from those within families (within and across generations) and friendships (old and new), through institutionally situated relationships (in religious orders and nursing homes) to formal relations between guardians and their wards. A feature of the volume is each article’s empirical focus. All too often, edited collections are speculative rather than investigative. The empirical focus alone would make Roberto’s volume useful to those interested in these underinvestigated social relationships, whether for courses in women studies, suggestions for further research, or as a guide to practice. Indeed, the chapters are uniformly organized to include directions for research and practical implications. Cox and Parson’s study also reports a group intervention to promote older women’s empowerment. The main message of the volume is diversity. Women’s ways of relating in later life are diverse in their extent, intensity, and modes of expression. Different methods are needed to begin to deal with such diversity, and there is no homogeneous concept that could be accepted as defining what is “typical of older women’s relationships.” For example, in Perkinson and Rockemann’s retirement village study, some women and couples settled quickly into established patterns of chosen friends, whereas others played “Riverdale Roulette,” moving around meal tables so they could expand their circle of friends. For Catholic religious sisters, relationships with a variety of people (including children and friends outside the order) were both rewarding and significant for their selfesteem (Mercier, Shelley, & Powers). Although social and emotional involvement appears to be more important than instrumental assistance, Roberto found diversity even in what older women talked about when they could please themselves by getting together “just to talk.” Nevertheless, diversity did not always follow directions researchers or readers would expect. Older American rural women had greater contact with brothers than withsisters (PearsonScott), and somewomen in nursing homes and retirement villages worked as hard to avoid invasive, unwanted relationships as others to establish them (Powers). Similarly, the diversity

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@inproceedings{Eisdorfer2003RelationshipsBW, title={Relationships between Women in Later Life}, author={Carl Eisdorfer}, year={2003} }