Is America Ready for More Old Men?

Or so goes the title of the current debate in the opinion pages of the NYTimes. All of this hullabaloo comes out of a study that reports a narrowing gap between men and women in the 65+ category.  While women tend to outnumber men in this age category, recent numbers show elder men catching up.

However, it is never this simple. Here are some highlights from the debate:

Stephanie Coontz and Susan Jacoby seem to say, “hold on here,” let’s not forget that old women make up the current majority, and that’s not changing anytime soon!  Currently 85 percent of centenarians are women, and women outnumber men by over 2:1 in the 85+ age group.

Jane Gross reminds us that women have the lifelong resilience to make it to advanced old age. Sociologists like me call this social capital. Men, on the other hand, tend to have fewer friendships and social supports, and have depended on their wives to manage their domestic and social lives.

To sum up: If manhood is changing, perhaps men will live longer lives. But it takes more than modern medicine to make that happen.

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Meika Loe

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