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Coping with Age-related Threats to Role Identity: Older Couples and the Management of Household Money



As more couples live together into old age, difficult decisions have to be made about money matters, including the financing of late-life care. This paper analyses in-depth qualitative data from six older heterosexual couples, part of a wider study concerning money management in later life. Research when these cohorts were younger found that the organisation of money management within households was specialised and highly gendered, leading to substantive imbalances of power and access to financial resources, while also being core to the formation and maintenance of gendered role identities and couple identities. We find in this study that if a partner's ability to fulfil a money management role identity is threatened by later-life issues such as poor health and cognitive decline, the other partner may try to protect that aspect of the spouse's role identity, using various covert strategies. This might be done to shore up the spouse's self-esteem in the face of such age-related threats to role identity, to ‘keep up appearances’ to the outside world or to maintain their identity as a couple at a time of life when there may be multiple difficulties to deal with. These findings have implications for practice and policy in the realm of money and identity management in later life. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.