Challenges of the Third Age: Meaning and Purpose in Later Life

By Robert S. Weiss; Scott A. Bass | Go to book overview
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SEVEN
Aging, Intimate Relationships,
and Life Story among Gay Men
Bertram J. Cohler and Andrew J. Hostetler

EDITORS' INTRODUCTION This essay by Cohler and Hostetler is the first of three sets of case studies that show the way people's lives take shape and how their histories help decide what matters to them as they enter later life. In this essay and in the two autobiographical accounts that follow we can see how people express what they find important in life in the direction their lives take, even as their attention is absorbed by day-to-day challenges. They make known their values and goals not in declarations but in the relationships they establish, the decisions they make, and the lives they fashion.

Cohler and Hostettler show us two men now in the interval of the Third Age. Both are gay, reasonably affluent, and resident in a large city in the American Midwest. Each experienced the same cohort history: the same critical events that affected all those within their particular cohort. Each began adult life in a time when to be gay risked social exclusion except within a marginal and halfhidden gay community. Each has lived to see extraordinary change in social attitude; there is, if not complete social acceptance, at least wide support for acceptance.

Despite being of the same cohort, and having lived through the same history in the same region, the men presented by Cohler and Hostettler are different in the

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