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A common assumption is that being old and alone is a severely negative condition. However, this reflects data obtained from older males, often in institutional or outpatient settings. This study based on a sample of 300 older men and women in community settings, provides an alternative perspective. For a number of daily living activities as well as personal and interpersonal attitudes and orientations, comparisons between older adults currently living with spouse and those alone make it apparent that sex of the subject importantly affects outcome. For older women in the lone status, life is far from unpleasant--in fact, they fare better not only than their single male counterparts but also than still-coupled women of comparable age. For men, on the other hand, the stereotypic views seem to have more substance. These results are interpreted in the light of previous history of traditional role enactment and its differential impact during aging for men and women.

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