Many of the articles on this site look at women and aging. One, women live longer. Two, women are more likely to end up in poverty and someone should do something about that. Finally, I’m a woman. I’ve got more skin in this game. Still, if that suggests somehow that men have an easy go of it or that aging is something only women should think about I’m here to dispel that belief. So, in honor of Father’s Day, here are some facts about men and aging.
- If women lead longer lives then obviously men lead shorter lives. Men live about four years less than women do. The good news for men and for the women who love them is that the difference is shrinking. The bad news is that it’s because women aren’t doing such a hot job, the gap used to be six years but we have an increased mortality to some diseases that were traditionally male-related such as heart disease. There are a couple reasons why men live shorter lives. Generally speaking, they have a tendency especially when they are young to act as if they are also invincible. They get in accidents, drink too much, smoke, drive like knuckleheads and go to war. That’s not to say that women don’t do many of those things but they do them in smaller numbers. A paper by a Seattle Actuary called “Why Men Die Younger: Causes of Mortality Differences by Sex” (I don’t make these things up) found that the sex mortality differential has existed since 1750 and occurs at all age groups including prenatally in nearly all animals. Yep. That’s right. It’s not just human males with a tendency to do things that get them killed.
- There are more men in the world than there are women. However, that’s not true in the United States where women outnumber men 161 million to 156.1 million. If you are an American male looking for an American female, your best odds are in the District of Columbia, Delaware and Rhode Island where the percentage of females is 52.6 percent and 51.6 percent respectively (Delaware and Rhode Island are tied). Your odds increase as you get older since by the age of 85 women outnumber men 2 to 1.
- Seventy four percent of assisted living residents are female. There are manifold reasons for this. Part of the demographic is simply a matter of math. The typical assisted living resident is 87 years old. With far fewer men still living at that age, it makes sense that fewer of them are in assisted living. Then too, the typical assisted living resident isn’t married. Which makes sense I suppose since there are so few men in assisted living but my point is that married men and women often remain in their own homes because they are able to support each other. My next-door neighbor once told me that it took the two of them to drive to the doctor’s office. She’d had a stroke and physically couldn’t drive but could see and hear, he could drive but was going deaf and getting slow from Parkinson’s. The point is, beyond scaring everyone to death, that many studies indicate that older people living together can live more independently than a single person can. According to studies, spouses are more likely to act as primary caregivers, provide more hours of care and are less likely to relinquish their caregiving role than other informal helpers are. So, the lesson here is that if you want to stay out of assisted living, take very good care of your spouse but if you want to reach the point where you can have your pick of women, take very good care of your health and move into an assisted living community. Well, that’s probably not the lesson but it could be.
- When it comes to perceptions about aging, men win. Whether you are talking about how men perceive their own aging or how the world at large views aging, men come out ahead. There’s an old joke that men age like fine wine and women age like a glass of milk. The physical appearance, age and gender of both the individual being perceived as old and the person who is viewing someone as old play a role in determining what constitutes as old. One study found that participants viewed 40-49 years as elderly for women and 70-79 as elderly for men. A 2004 study found that older males are perceived more favorably than women and that older women were subjected to more negative biases and prejudices. Perhaps it’s those perceptions that makes men see aging as something more positive than how women see aging.
- The Boomers have already brought some changes to the role of men in aging. Just 20 years ago, men played a fairly small role in providing care for loved ones. By 2012, the number of male family caregivers had grown from just 19 percent in 1997 to 40 percent.
Happy Father’s Day.