Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Men lucky to be living shorter lives

Some people can always find something to moan about. Now it's a problem that women live longer than men;

Older and bolder? Pensioner paradise is not yet here

Older women may live longer than men, but they are more likely to have poor quality of life, says Professor Elizabeth Markson, Director of the Gerontology Centre at Boston University, who was visiting Auckland in March.

In the USA, one in three women over 65 is impaired in daily living activities compared to one in five men. Women are five times more likely to be widowed and marriage has been found to insulate elderly men against illness.

'The moral of this is to marry a man seven years your junior if you don't want to be widowed,' Professor Markson quipped.

Having had lower incomes through their lives, women are poorer in old age. They are twice as likely as men to have trouble accessing health services, prescription drugs and adequate housing, and even when women visit doctors they are treated differently. Women are given more examinations but receive fewer diagnostic procedures and are less likely to receive therapeutic treatments for the same conditions as men. Presumably for these reasons, women are more likely to die in hospital.

On the other side of the coin, caregiving falls heavily on women. Professor Markson reported that in the USA 29% of caregivers of older relatives are daughters, 23% are wives, 20% are other female relatives and only 23% are men. Wives are most likely to care for a disabled spouse as long as possible who are usually only admitted to long-term care as a last resort, incontinence usually being the trigger. Where wives leave off, daughters sometimes take over.

There are gender differences in caregiving, said Professor Markson. 'Women tackle the hands-on care such as bathing and dealing with incontinence, tasks that can be physically and emotionally taxing. Women caregivers tend to suffer more ill health than men caregivers and are likely to use their holidays and sick leave providing care. Men typically take over bill-paying and mowing the lawns.'

Conflicts for the caregivers are matched by dilemmas for the recipients. They can be treated as 'wrinkled toddlers'. Caregivers who take charge can induce dependency and helplessness, leading to a loss of skills and independence.

'Depression is not uncommon and can easily be mistaken for dementia,' said Professor Markson.

Wow. Happy days are here again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The plus side for men is that if you live long enough you get into into a target rich environment. There are also a lot of well off, but lonely widows out there who are longing for some male company.

Brian Smaller