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As social roles in later life are shaped by significant life events and changes occurring in the late-life transition, examining social engagement in midlife may provide a context for interpreting the ageing social identity. This is particularly important for women, who are heavily dependent on social relationships and are more influenced by social losses and change. Objective: To examine major social changes occurring in the decade prior to late-life, starting from approximately 45–55 years of age. Study design: The study accessed data from the longitudinal prospective Women’s Healthy Ageing Project (WHAP). Participants were 493 women who had completed at least one assessment in the first 12 years of the study. Results: Living with a partner was common and stable amongst participants, while the proportion with children still at home decreased markedly (79–44%). Full-time employment also decreased as participants approached the average retirement age (40–13%). Volunteer work was popular throughout the study, increasing slightly with age, and minding grandchildren was common at the end of the study period (80%). Conclusions: Taken together, these findings suggest a notable deficit in participants’ social lives as they transition into later life, but with some evidence of compensation by increasing other social activities.


Institute for Health and Ageing

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Journal Article

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