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Planning Retirement Online

Changing Relationships in Later Life


Relationships, like people, evolve as they age, and as people’s circumstances change, relationships inevitably change. In later life personal relationships can undergo a qualitative change and be “reinvigorated” as we plan and spend time doing what we enjoy together as well as sharing the ups and downs of life. Likewise there can be opportunities to deepen close family relationships. Many people find grandchildren bring great joy at this stage of life. At the same time, key transitions such as retirement, decline in health, bereavement and changes in financial circumstances can be challenging for us and for some place strain on the relationship.

Decline in Health

A decline in health can have a significant impact on a partnership or family relationship, as we either need someone close to us to help us do things or find ourselves in a caring role. See our Guide to Ill Health in Later Life and Guide to Caring for Elderly Parents and Relatives.


According to a report conducted for Relate in March 2013 personal relationships are regarded as one of the things people think about most in later life after health. 91% of the over 50’s surveyed said that relationships are very important for a happy retirement. Couples often described retirement as a time when they can refocus upon personal relationships and enjoy them for their own sake, rather than in terms of particular roles and obligations. On the other hand relationships can come under pressure when we retire as we try to renegotiate roles and responsibilities. Single people more than couples often find it easier to maintain a wider network of relationships and to develop new relationships in retirement. For most of us whether a couple or single, there is a period of adjustment with family and friends and with honesty and good communication we learn to readjust. For information on planning and enjoying your retirement see our Retirement section. 

Loss and Bereavement

The loss of a loved one is a traumatic time and one where we do need the support of others. We may need help with the practical as well as the emotional aspects of our loss. Very often we have family and friends to help. See the Bereavement in Laterlife page for support and practical advice. Read Jeanne Davies’s article on how she adjusted to a new life following the death of her husband, as well as Maggi Stamp’s advice on bereavement and loss.

Family Changes: Divorce, Remarriage, Step-Children

As we live longer and social values change we often have to adjust to significant changes in family structures. We may find ourselves in 4 or 5 generation families with differing expectations from above and below. Divorce is growing among the over 60s, and divorce of adult children often means we can struggle to maintain contact with grandchildren, have to adjust to new partners and second spouses, as well as develop relationships with step-grand-children. While this can be very challenging it can also extend our network and opportunities for support. For help on Separation and Divorce see laterlife Separation and Divorce in Later Life

Relationship Coaching

Are you experiencing a major life transition? Could relationship coaching be of assistance? Find out more.


For advice on Managing Changing Relationships see Maggi’s articles on:

Older Parenting, Relationships with our Children and partners, Estrangement

Relationship with Ex’s, Siblings and Extended Family

Relationship with Partner

Relationship Breakdown and Divorce

New Relationships, Re-marriage and Step-Families

Bereavement, Loss and Empty-Nest Syndrome

Caring for Elderly Parents and Relatives


Back to Relationships


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