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More and more people are alone in their last years


A research group will now investigate what it is like to grow old and lack both children and partners.
- Much of the care is based on relatives stepping up, says Peter Öberg, professor of social work at the University of Gävle.

Ensam äldre man tittar ut genom ett fönster

Foto: TT

The researchers have identified a potentially vulnerable group of older people who lack the important support of partners and children. In a three-year research project funded by Forte, they will study the consequences of spending the last days of one’s life without close relatives.

Every fifth person over 60 is divorced

In Sweden, more than one in three people aged 60 or over live alone, and the women who live alone are almost twice as many as the men.

Those living alone are more likely to be childless than those who do not live alone. Almost 20% of women living alone and almost 35% of men living alone are childless.

“There are 225 000 people over the age of 60 who live alone and who have no children,” Peter Öberg says.

“Grey divorce” doubled in 20 years

Divorce among the over-60s is becoming more common; such divorces have doubled since the turn of the century. Every tenth divorce is now “a grey divorce”. Among the over-65s, Sweden is currently the only country with more divorcees than widows/widowers.

“Today's older people were active in the divorce revolution of the 1970s. They have a more liberal approach to divorce and are willing to divorce to realise their dreams in their silver years.”

“Our previous research shows how important partners and children are as sources of support. Now, we would like to understand what it means to be without a close family in later life and to see whether people have built up alternative support networks. Another interesting aspect to explore is what people now think about those family formation choices they once made,” Peter Öberg says.

Peter Öberg, professor of social work at University of Gävle, and Torbjörn Bildtgård, docent of sociology at Stockholm University, have for many years studied the family relationships of older people. Ingemar Kåreholt, professor at Jönköping University, participates in the project on ageing without a partner and children.

Forte has granted SEK 3 900 000 to study the consequences of ageing without a close family.


Peter Öberg, professor of social work at University of Gävle
Phone: 026- 64 82 88, 076- 644 43 13
Email: peter.oberg@hig.se

Published by: Douglas Öhrbom Page responsible: Anders Munck Updated: 2023-03-27
Högskolan i Gävle
Box 801 76 GÄVLE
026-64 85 00 (växel)