How the Impact of Family Ties Change Throughout Life

Dr Quashie and Patterson cover art on family ties with older adults

Listen to this episode with Dr. Nekehia Quashie and Dr. Sarah Patterson on older adults and family ties. Learn how family ties and family support change during the course of your life. Don’t miss the invite to prepare your environment and life for a supportive environment in your later years as an older adult.

We recorded this episode on Oct 14, 2022.

Not all family relationships are positive or any relationships overall. But at least at the later stages of life, when most older adults networks’ are really within their family realm, that’s your main source of interaction, generally speaking, and reliance of support systems. It requires a greater investment, I think, to really understand at a granular level as possible, how these interactions are operating and what they mean for individuals’ wellbeing.

Dr. Nekehia Quashie

Your Challenge Invitation

Start thinking about your range of support networks and what you need to build that as you age. What can you do to broaden your range of social networks and the quality of your relationships?

It’s important to build strong relations, networks of (biological) family members and the (chosen) “family” of people that will be there for you. These close relationships are important for health outcomes and support.

It’s important to think about the fact that, again, these ties are very complex and dynamic and that they can range in how people feel about them across a life course, across the tie, and as they age and their parents age as well.

Dr. Sarah Patterson

You can connect with Damianne on the Changes BIG and small website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. You’re also invited to join the Changes BIG and small Facebook community.

Similar Episodes

Timeline of the Chat

[01:06] How family ties change over one’s lifespan
[11:43] Positive and Negative Attributes of Family Ties for Older Adults
[17:25] The impact of caregiving on grandparents
[25:50] Are Children or a Partner Better as an Older Adult?
[32:59] Invitation/Challenge

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There’s research that shows that taking care of younger children as a grandparent does have positive health effects. – Dr. Sarah Patterson

Transcript of the Episode

[01:06] How family ties change over one’s lifespan

[01:06] Damianne President: You both study family ties and aging. And so the first question I have is how do family ties change over our lifespan. So if we look at young adulthood, mid-adulthood, late-adulthood, what do we notice?

[01:22] Sarah Patterson: Nekehia and I talked beforehand that it was funny because, as demographers and sociologists, we’re so used to just describing things. So this is great to have as a first question for us.

So I think in terms of family ties over the life course, things come to mind based off of my own research, and I’d be interested to hear Nekehia’s take as well. One of the things I think about is that, at least in the sociology literature, a lot of the focus has been on parent-child ties over the life course. And so I think that’s what I have the most familiarity with because that’s tended to be the focus of the research. And part of that is due to the fact that we often use surveys.

And so surveys are limited in their ability to ask questions about, you know, too many things at once. So parent and child ties, because they tend to be the main tie, is what I often think about when you ask about family ties over the life course. And I think the important thing to think about with that is that family ties can change over the life course in many different ways. 

One of the things that Nekehia and my research talks about is intergenerational transfers, so this is like giving time or money or help to your family members. And what we find is that often, these exchanges tend to go from older generations to younger generations early in the life course. 

Then in young adulthood you start to see some young adults also giving upwards to older generations. And then, it really shifts, especially towards the very end of the life course. But they can be dynamic and complex over the entire life course. And so that’s sort of the other thing I think about in terms of family ties is like family complexity and diversity. This has the ability to change over time in terms of like your ties and your relationships with family members. So you might be close to one family member when you’re younger and not when you’re older or vice versa. 

As our research sort of develops, we can think more about many different types of family ties that there are beyond parent and children, but we do tend to know the most about those. 

[03:24] Nekehia Quashie: Yeah, and just following up on that, why we probably tend to know the most about parent and children relationships is that there actually hasn’t been a lot of research on other networks, so friendship tie networks, I should say, at the population level. Not that these studies don’t exist, but those studies are more limited in the size and scope. Part of it is a matter of the types of data that are available to examine how family networks change over time. And the follow up with that is on intergenerational support. That’s also more studied I think at the later end of life. So with aging surveys, as aging has become more globally prevalent, and there are more data sets available to examine intergenerational support patterns across different country contexts. What’s really interesting is that there is sometimes consistency in the direction of supports, in terms of the ties, if we think over the life course.

[04:27] Damianne President: Are you enjoying listening to this podcast? Please take a minute to review it wherever you’re listening. This helps other people find the show.

[04:38] Nekehia Quashie: So in young adulthood, children typically need more support from their parents, whether that’s for education or socioeconomic circumstances like unemployment or unstable employment, changes in their own partnership, so if children become divorced or separated from cohabitation, et cetera, they’ll still rely on their parents for support, for instance, moving into their parents’ home after divorce. Coresidence is an aspect of support as well. So that happens in young adulthood. It could happen in middle adulthood too, for sure, and middle stereotypically conceptualized around late thirties, forties, but how that’s defined across countries, will also vary. The point is that in some countries this downward support continues regardless of the age, but the intensity may differ. Just to clarify, the downward is parents providing support to children. So you may not see so much change if we look at families across a life course, but you will observe in some country context that it’s more common for parents to continuously provide support to the children, and in other places, it’s the reverse that children are more likely from young adulthood upward to provide support to their own parents and grandparents. 

[06:02] Damianne President: And I guess socioeconomic status and social context, like what’s happening in the world at the time, may factor into that as well. So for example, now there is a lot of talk about millennials not being able to afford homes or not having the amount of disposable income that their parents’ generation had. So as we watch what else is happening in the world in terms of opportunity or job market, then that also affects the direction of the flow of support. 

[06:32] Nekehia Quashie: Mm-hmm. 

[06:33] Sarah Patterson: For sure. And to build on something Nekehia had talked about, co-residents is like a great example of that. There’s a lot of research that came out after the recession, at least in the US, that people were doubling up, that family members, especially young adults, were moving back in with their parents because of the socioeconomic situation. And I think you sort of saw variations of that with the pandemic and people making decisions in that way. So I would definitely agree with that. 

[06:58] Damianne President: Also, we kind of alluded to it that there are differences in different parts of the world. From my own experience, I think being from St. Lucia, being from the Caribbean, there’s often an expectation that that switch will flip at some point where when you’re younger, your parents will provide more for you and when you have more means, you’re going to help them out as they grow older, especially with countries that do not maybe have the social system net that would be able to provide support or help for older adults. 

[07:31] Nekehia Quashie: Yeah, exactly. And this is basically what I study. I look at course national patterns of family support, but also looking at it in different contexts where data is available, and some of my own work from within Latin America and the Caribbean does show that as a region within Latin American and the Caribbean, there is this commonality you can say of children being the providers, main sources of support, traditional sources of support to older adults because many countries do not have social welfare systems to support older adults in health and care. But even economic supports, pension systems are not generally strong if you compare it to North America or within European countries. But then there’s still a lot of variation across countries within the region. 

What holds actually is a kind of similar pattern that in countries where there’s more support available for older adults, a stronger welfare system, you see a lower prevalence of children providing support and that might be based on parents not having the need for support, generally speaking. The data is not there to say that but we can allude to that based on other patterns in different parts of the world. 

Barbados has one of the strongest social welfare systems for older adults in the region in terms of care services, pension systems. At the same time, there is still a strong normative element of children providing support. There’s a strong prevalence of coresidence too, because many older adults do not live in facilities, as a matter preference possibly or cultural norm possibly, or lack of safety, security. There’s a whole range of factors that might be contributing to it, but still given that it’s one of the stronger systems in your region of supports for older adults, to have this high prevalence still of coresidence with children kind of attest to this normative element as a Caribbean, Pan Caribbean cultural aspect. 

And then, a similar pattern you would see in Thailand. So that’s another country where I lived, but also worked and studied intergenerational support patterns. It’s very normative still for older adults to coreside with their children. It’s still expected, even though Thailand has experienced really significant economic and social development since the 1990s and the government has improved a lot of its social support systems for older adults. There’s also universal healthcare and really big push towards that. Overall, there’s been improvement. Yet, the norm is maintained. The cultural aspects of living with children is still very, very strong. 

Some of my own work also looks at the differences in the wellbeing between parents who coreside with their children versus those who live non co-residence. Parents who do not live with their children actually have higher risks for psychological distress than those who live with their children. A lot of that is driven by that’s normative to live with your children, so if you are not in that demographic state, yeah, maybe it’s the stigma and then also the 

[10:44] Damianne President: even feelings of abandonment 

[10:46] Nekehia Quashie: feeling of abandonment. Exactly. Or just being separate from the norm overall, and what you might have expected, what you would have prepared for that doesn’t hold up within your life. So there’s that at like two extremes of geographic regions, but with similar cultural, underpinnings. 

But then even within the European context, there’s a lot of variation too and we see that in southern European countries there’s stronger norms of co-residence and family cohesion relative to northern and western European countries. And there’s a lot of difference in actual social investment, social welfare structure for old southern, western, eastern, northern Europe. So this typical north south pattern is very much discussed in the literature and it’s still highly relevant to current context of Europe. 

[11:43] Positive and Negative Attributes of Family Ties for Older Adults

[11:43] Damianne President: One of the things that you mentioned in the pre-interview form was that there are some positive and some negative attributes of family ties for older adults. What are some of those positive aspects of family relationships when it comes to the health and wellbeing of older adults? 

[11:59] Sarah Patterson: One of the things that comes up in the intergenerational transfers and caregiving for older adults literature is that there’s a lot of focus on the negative. I mean, everybody’s heard the term I would think, caregiving burden. There’s this sort of pushback that’s natural, I think, in terms of thinking that there can be positive as well as ambiguous ties to family members. It’s not always necessarily negative or burdensome, that there are positives that can come out between these relationships. 

Referencing back to some of the things Nekehia was talking about, if there are these cultural norms, or even just within your family, the norm to care for your parents, it might actually make you feel really good to do that, right? It makes you feel like you’ve given back to them what they’ve given to you. It might make you feel like there’s meaning in this relationship, that there is this positive tie, so thinking about it as a continuum of positive to negative with family members. 

Another thing that comes up in this is that family ties can also be ambiguous, right? You’re, you’re not really quite sure what your tie is or how you feel about that tie to a particular family member. And speaking of the life course, that can change over the life course. So perhaps, you know, thinking about family complexity and family diversity, if you get married or divorced or people within your family get married and divorced, you can see this sort of ambiguity pop up where people aren’t quite sure how they feel about that tie or maybe about the new family member. I think there’s so many stereotypes of that, right, in TV shows about those dynamics. 

So yeah, I think it’s important to think about the fact that, again, these ties are very complex and dynamic and that they can range in how people feel about them across a life course, across the tie, and as they age and their parents age as well. 

[13:48] Damianne President: Are there any specific examples? 

[13:51] Nekehia Quashie: This is not in my research, but just doing literature reviews related to work on caregiving, there is moreso caregiving amongst older adults, which is typically the partnership, so one partner providing care for another partner. And one study that has struck me and I’m not going to remember the details, so maybe I’ll shared with you actually as background. But one of the striking patterns was, also looking at gender dynamics of this, because this is a very important aspect of the positive negative landscape of family interactions and who seems to 

[14:29] Damianne President: Who benefits 

[14:30] Nekehia Quashie: not just benefits, but has a larger impact, whether it’s both positive or negative. So what I’m thinking of is a study that looks at household tasks also versus caregiving and caregiving can be very intense. So there’s also a lot of work that looks at the intensity of caregiving and how it differs for your health outcomes and wellbeing, broadly, life satisfaction or maybe even loneliness, and more direct, actual physical health, mental health, et cetera. 

So the study that I’m thinking about looking at women who provided household tasks to their partner who is also disabled. So they provide care as well, but different types of care. And you could think of care as personal care, but also everything surrounding that, like doing household chores. 

Household chores were positively associated with wellbeing generally versus the actual personal care. So there is something to be said for having a little more fine tuning around how we think of family interactions, family care, and what it means for individuals’ wellbeing. A lot depends on what you do overall and the intensity of what we do, which can be applied to nearly every part of life, but within the household context and given the nature of some of the relationships that we engage with as Sarah was just saying, depending how you feel about ex person within your family you take on roles either willingly or unwillingly, with extreme care or not, and your approach to that. 

If we do more assessment of these differences and the types of supports and intensity of supports that are provided, personal care, household chores, instrumental kinds of supports, it gives us a more comprehensive picture overall of positive and negative interactions potentially for older adults’ wellbeing. 

Not all family relationships are positive or any relationships overall. But at least at the later stages of life, when most older adults networks’ are really within their family realm, that’s your main source of interaction, generally speaking, and reliance of support systems. It requires a greater investment, I think, to really understand at a granular level as possible, how these interactions are operating and what they mean for individuals’ wellbeing. Because from a broader social policy perspective, if societies by default rely on family members for support of older adults, if we can see at a population level that people are not actually doing so great with their families with health outcomes, that’s just a downward spiral overall.

[17:25] The impact of caregiving on grandparents

[17:25] Damianne President: I know for example, in some communities, in some cultures, even in North America, where families do not live close together, the children may go and visit the grandparents over the holidays, especially longer holidays. Or in some communities, in some cultures, grandparents may be part of caregiving where they help with taking care of the children maybe on a regular basis, or an occasional basis. So in those types of relationships where there maybe multiple generations, is that part of your research at all in terms of the impact in any direction from those relationships? 

[18:01] Nekehia Quashie: Not mine directly right now, but it’s on the agenda. 

[18:07] Sarah Patterson: This is kind of what I was referencing back at the very beginning of the interview about the fact that there are many more family ties beyond just parent and children. I think grandparents are a great example. 

So grandparents have gotten a lot more attention recently, partly because people are living longer, so they’re more likely to be alive, to be grandparents, basically, to put it very bluntly. And so we do see these changes in the family ties, and what you do find is that grandparents are providing a lot of caregiving for grandchildren but then, speaking of the positives of these relationships, they receive positive health benefits back. 

There’s research that shows that taking care of younger children as a grandparent does have positive health effects. So you see this especially in literature, I’m thinking like Christina Cross’s work and Natasha Palka, that multi-generational households are becoming much more common for young children nowadays. So you’re seeing these changes across a life course as well. 

[19:03] Damianne President: I know for me, I grew up with my grandmother and So people would always say that I was very old fashioned. I don’t know if that’s a positive or a negative, but I think I grew up with a particular mindsets that I was exposed to from being around my grandparents. 

[19:21] Nekehia Quashie: Yeah, and I do have one study on grandparenting, grandparent caregiving and life satisfaction amongst older adults in jamaica, because it’s so common in the Caribbean. And, as Damianne is saying, for various reasons, like grandparents provide care either within the household or children visit, you know, for long periods. It could be for holidays, but also on a weekly basis for the parents going to work. 

You spent time with your grandma, which was the situation for my brother and myself when we were growing up based on how our parents worked. So when you asked the question, I was initially thinking of literally within the household living together, multi-generational households, which is also quite prevalent and increasingly so as Sarah just saying. 

But thinking of work within Jamaica, I did look at grandparent caregiving, and as Sarah is mentioning in terms of wellbeing, yes caregiving can be strenuous and there is a lot of work that shows for grandparenting, the intensity of the caregiving does matter, so how frequently you’re doing it, how many hours, and it’s associated with health outcomes in some context. 

An example in Jamaica, when we also look at gender dynamics of this, women are typically the ones providing care. Women provide more care than men, generally speaking, across the life course. This extends within grandparenting care as well. 

The study within Jamaica comparing grandparents life satisfaction, grandmothers who provided care regularly, but also occasionally had better life satisfaction than those who were not providing care, so they had grandchildren but were not providing care. And then for grandfathers, it was actually regular caregiving that was associated with higher life satisfaction, which wouldn’t be expected. That was a novel finding, I would say. 

[21:13] Damianne President: I’d have to tell my dad that, that he should spend more time 

[21:16] Nekehia Quashie: Which is grandchildren. Yes. . 

[21:19] Sarah Patterson: so right. 

[21:20] Nekehia Quashie: Yes. So, I think there is something there, and I would like to do more of this work within the Caribbean overall; it’s just having data to do this. But there is something which I thought was really interesting and really novel because it challenges a lot of gender norms and expectations we have around care and the associations with wellbeing too, and especially in the Caribbean context where men are generally not seen as being very active in the household overall. 

[21:51] Damianne President: That’s also interesting because when I think about parenting versus grandparenting for men in the Caribbean context or even outside of the Caribbean, but within Caribbean families, what I notice is that the parenting of grandchildren, or the caregiving of grandchildren is much more fun and relaxed, so maybe it’s much more life giving than when you have to actually parent your children, right? And so the person that my father is with his grandchildren is not the person that brought me up, you know?

[22:25] Sarah Patterson: for sure. Yeah.

[22:26] Nekehia Quashie: Right, 

[22:27] Damianne President: how. Caregiving for as a grandfather could be really energizing and a positive outcome for men. Yeah, that’s interesting. 

[22:38] Nekehia Quashie: it is interesting. 

[22:39] Sarah Patterson: It’s interesting to think about in terms of what is happening there. Is it because it’s not your own child? Cause I feel that way about seeing my mom interact with the grandchildren too. So it’s like is it the parent child versus grandparent, grandchild pie, or is it just aging in general? Because as Nekehia’s research found, you do find that men are more likely to care when they are older in terms of grandparent child or grandparent and grandchild care, but also for their spouse. And so is this a change across the life course as if they, you know, feel like that becomes an option for them as they’re older or becomes more necessary. I don’t think that there’s a lot of resolution in terms of what’s happening there, but I think that that’s a really interesting thing to think about in terms of the tie versus the natural process of aging and how we develop as family members over the lifespan. 

[23:29] Nekehia Quashie: Yeah, I completely agree. And another level that I would add that needs a lot more investigation overall is, specifically within grandparenting, but men’s caregiving rules is what does the care look like? Because part of the fun, energizing aspect, not disputing it, is also based on the nature of what they’re doing. Also in the Jamaican context, at least for the study that I did with colleagues in Jamaica, there’s no gender difference with caregiving, but there is still a reality that women do provide more care than men. It’s both grandmothers providing regular care and occasional care. So something about the caregiving in itself, regardless of the intensity, broadly speaking, is beneficial to women. So is this fulfilling some kind of gender norm? Is it also a matter of what they’re doing with the children. 

But for grandfathers, to see that it’s regular care, this is almost daily. So is it about seeing your grandchild daily or is it that you have more fun time, you know, like you look forward to the fun time, basically if it’s, 

[24:39] Damianne President: giving meaning to your life or 

[24:41] Nekehia Quashie: Yeah, 

[24:41] Damianne President: Yeah. 

[24:41] Nekehia Quashie: yeah, giving your 

[24:42] Damianne President: Hmm. 

[24:43] Nekehia Quashie: based on the activities that they’re doing. We don’t have a lot of resolution and clarity on what grandparents do with their grandchildren, at least not that I can point to off the top of my head. I know that there are so many studies that look at this level of detail and I think this is where it’s gonna be really interesting to see how that differs, well, of course, the age of the children matter as well cuz the level of dependency varies across our ages. So if you are doing more active kind of activities with them, that can be energizing versus things that need more intense, acute attention because of the level of need. But maybe it’s energizing because it’s not your entire day that you’re doing that as a grandparent versus a parent, depending on if you are the main caregiver or not. Cuz I think that also is a difference if you are the main caregiver as a grandparent versus, um, 

[25:45] Damianne President: More occasional, even if regular. Hmm.

[25:48] Nekehia Quashie: Even if Exactly. Exactly. 

[25:50] Are Children or a Partner Better as an Older Adult?

[25:50] Damianne President: It’s interesting because I think in a lot of places, when people think about caregiving or care getting as an older adult, then they think about children. Like I know, for example, in the Caribbean context, people will often say, Oh, aren’t you going to have a child? Who’s going to take care of you when you’re old if you don’t have a child? 

[26:10] Sarah Patterson: Yeah. 

[26:10] Damianne President: And that doesn’t come up so much in terms of partners. I mean, sure women tend to live longer than men, but still, there is an opportunity for men to be involved in caregiving for their partners as well. So I was interested to see some of your research around the impact that children have versus partners for wellbeing, for less loneliness, more happiness in life, especially as an older adult. 

[26:41] Nekehia Quashie: So I can talk about that because that’s one of my main areas of work and it’s one of my most passionate areas of work for some of the same reasons, like based on the assumptions of, okay, if you don’t have a child, you are doomed. 

[26:54] Damianne President: I’m very interested in this cause I don’t have children and I don’t intentions having children. 

[27:00] Nekehia Quashie: Yes. 

[27:02] Damianne President: self. 

[27:05] Nekehia Quashie: Yes. So I completely understand and based on most recent work that I’ve done, cross nationally across 20 countries, the overwhelming evidence was that whether you have a child or not was generally not associated with your health across multiple dimensions of health, depression, chronic conditions, self-reported health to be fair, your reporting of having disabling conditions, your overall health. 

But where we did see patterns, they varied so much and some really went against expectations. One of the most striking examples is a country like Mexico that’s a middle income country, but social welfare systems are less developed for older adults compared to the US as a most direct proximal example. 

In Mexico actually we found for older adults 50 and older, those who were childless had better health nearly across every outcome. And the same was the case in Hungary, which is also a very traditional country within Central Europe. Childless, older adults actually had better health than those who had at least one child. 

Some of the ongoing work we’re doing looking at different numbers of children with the same countries, we’re also seeing this pattern holding up. So for each additional child, older adults have worse health than if they are childless or how fewer children. 

It’s validated in other research that children are a major source, of support for older adults in these countries, but not having children does not put you at risk for poor health as well. And the hypothetical explanation that the team came up with and we are gonna explore further is maybe there is something about having children overall, but especially larger family sizes in contexts with limited resources to support childbearing and childrearing that makes it strenuous. And that can impact your long-term health in later life, right? 

So it’s not all bad if you do not have children. A lot of it depends on where you live the country context overall, and having children in low resource settings may not be so beneficial for your long-term health. It also depends, which is another area of work that we’ll start getting into is what this quality of relationship looks like with the children and even the children’s own resources. Because you can have multiple children, but if many children are in a very tight socioeconomic situation or even if you have one of those within a high need situation as an adult, but within a low resource context, that adds a lot of strain. And the low resource is not just for the older adult, but also for children if you live in country without really secure employment, safety nets, etcetera. There, it potentially increases the child’s dependency on the parent. And if it’s not doing that, it limits the child’s ability to support the parent. So then that can affect the parents’ health as well. 

So the take home message with children and health is that it’s generally not bad. A lot of it is contextual when you’re in your later life. But for partnership, however, what’s most consistent across a lot of literature is not having a partner in later life is actually more detrimental for your health and your wellbeing. 

And some of my own work with the same team that I just mentioned, we just looked at this in the context of Covid 19 comparing specifically among European older adults and Israel. And basically what we found is that older adults who did not have a partner, had the most significant changes in their loneliness. One, they stayed lonely, but also they were more likely to become lonely during the pandemic. And this was not the case so much for those without children. 

And then I also looked at this within Latin American, the Caribbean, with some comparative data that I had available from 2000. Although it’s older, the pattern still held that when we looked at childless versus parents, there was no real difference in depression. But even if you lived with other people but did not have a partner, you were at higher risks for depression. So partnership in itself, presents a level of resource, in like actual instrumental resource for supports or the emotional connection, the sense of companionship, social network of it that’s distinct from children. 

[31:55] Damianne President: I don’t know if she’s going to listen to this, but Miss P keeps asking me, So Damianne, what’s happening with your partnership situation? Think about when you get old and you might wanna have somebody for companionship. Turns out that she’s not so wrong, 

[32:09] Nekehia Quashie: Yeah, it turns out it. I can’t remember who used to tell me this, but somebody’s who is older, or I’ve heard it from multiple people, have said, you know, you should not be going to bed alone for very long, but it’s the 

[32:24] Damianne President: think that shows a different level of intimacy than just having a close friend or anything else, right? Like it’s a shorthand for the type of relationship there. 

[32:32] Nekehia Quashie: Sarah, you.

[32:33] Sarah Patterson: No, I just wanted to echo what Nekehia said and the study she did using multiple countries, I think is just like a really good example of how the context matters. It’s what we’ve been talking about. The context matters. The, place matters, but there are some universals in these relationships. And I would definitely agree that in my own work looking at mortality or death, that partners matter much more than children when you’re doing a comparison of the two. 

[32:59] Invitation/Challenge

[32:59] Damianne President: Okay. So as our time is well wounded down, is there anything that you want people to take away or any invitation that you have for people as we end? 

[33:11] Nekehia Quashie: Well maybe Sarah, I both agree on this too as we study caregiving and family as a main source of that sort of supports for older adults. One takeaway would be as early as possible in your life to start thinking about your range of support networks and what you need to build that as you age. And that’s a continuous revision as we know, because people’s lives change. Your circumstances change if you move even. You know, I’ve moved a lot in my life but I have been able to maintain a core social network. Granted the most most pressing circumstance, they would not be the immediate people . So I have to also do my own homework with that, you know, thinking of the, your support networks. But the point is overall, and I think Sarah would agree, is a wide range can be beneficial in the most immediate circumstances, of course, but also long term and. 

[34:14] Damianne President: we’re thinking here beyond the family relationships as well, 

[34:18] Nekehia Quashie: Beyond family relationships? Yes, beyond family relationships, because there’s no guarantee built in with any given relationship overall. But also, as we just ended with comparing children and partners, having children in your life doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they will be available and be willing and you will have positive relationships with them throughout your life to have us a support network. 

So I think, yeah, that would be one of the mean takeaways that’s actionable, let’s put it that way, something you can start thinking through and working on. Sarah. 

[34:56] Damianne President: And you’re too polite, but I guess the other for me and anybody else who may be in this position is, think about partnership, 

[35:03] Nekehia Quashie: Yeah, right. Yes. Um, totally. I, I think , but I’m not going to, I don’t wanna also add that pressure because I feel like it’s the same kind of pressure with children. You invent a partner, I don’t know that you, you know, there, there is…??

[35:21] Sarah Patterson: Right, Right. 

[35:21] Nekehia Quashie: practicality of how you do this at the same time. And a lot of that is organic, because with partnership it’s somebody you have, well, yeah, you have choice in both ways, but you make a choice then to be with someone for an extended period of time, whether that’s till the end of your life or somewhere in between. So with all of it, I think the other thing that Sarah would probably agree with, whether you have children or the partner, having quality relationships matter because there is also work that shows that it’s quality partnerships. It’s not just having the partner, but if you have a poor quality partnership, 

[35:59] Sarah Patterson: Yes. 

[35:59] Nekehia Quashie: it increases your risk for poor health. So you don’t want that either. So it’s the quality of relationships that you also have to build. And there’s emerging work on singlehood, you know over the Life course that I haven’t really followed as yet, but I will start paying attention to more because thankfully there’s a lot more calling for attention on lifelong singlehood. This is increasingly common. It’s a different family structures, different social network structures that are really critical. And what I will not advocate for is putting so much attention to one having a partner for your later life, because it’s not to say that 

[36:42] Damianne President: it’s not at any cost, right? It’s not at any cost. 

[36:45] Nekehia Quashie: it’s not as any cost and it also varies so much by generation and context. So the whole idea of these traditional “resources” for supporting later life, I would say, is driven by how social policies are designed. So we have a rule as society to advocate for policies that are going to account for individuals rather than family status. 

[37:18] Damianne President: That’s a good point. Yeah. 

[37:19] Sarah Patterson: Mm-hmm. 

[37:20] Nekehia Quashie: what I, So at an actionable level, at the individual, I would say it still comes down to broadening our range of social networks and the quality of relationships that we have within those, cuz they definitely matter for our health. And I think COVID definitely shows us that overall. 

[37:40] Damianne President: Okay, Sarah, last words. No pressure. 

[37:45] Sarah Patterson: Yeah, yeah. No, I just wanna say exactly no, exactly what Nekehia said. I think Nekehia had it spot on. Just one small elaboration on it and tying sort of what she said together is that thinking about these ties beyond just the traditional ones we think about, like our parents or our children or our partner, and thinking about our broader social networks, like she was saying in terms of like, your friends, you know. 

I don’t know if other people have this, but talking about like, retiring with your friends or things like that. And you might, you know, talk about that or joke about that with your friends, but I do think it’s important. So like, just to give you a personal anecdote, like, my best friend knows my end of life plans, you know. I’ve shared with her what I want in terms of caregiving and end of life planning. I think that’s kind of shocking to people or depressing to people. But again, as Nekehia pointed out, I think the pandemic sort of made these issues front and center for a lot of people. And so for me it was important not only for my family to know, but also for her to know. And so just thinking about the fact that these issues do come up and your social network can include other people other than what we traditionally think of as your family tie, like family can encompass many people. And those people will also be important as you age.


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