Published Papers - Abstract 305

Byles J, Feldman S & Dobson A. The art of ageing as widowed Older women in Australia. , 2007; : 41-53

The preceding authors highlight a range of findings arising from one large study, the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. This particular study involved 40,000 women in Australia and involved three cohorts of women: 18–23, 45–50, and 70–75 years in 1996. Subsequent studies in 1999 and 2002 tracked women who were aged 73–75 and then 76–81 years. The application of cross-sectional analyses involved important physical and health differences between older women who have been widowed fewer than 12 months compared to those who have been widowed for more than 12 months. Very few differences were found between women who had been widowed for more than 12 months and married women of the same age. Indeed the respective studies revealed that the majority of older widowed women displayed much strength, stoicism, and courage despite the presence of physical limitations or illness. For a majority of older widows, humor emerged as an effective coping mechanism. The research findings reveal that the death of a spouse affects the three following life domains: 1) mental and physical health; 2) structural support and material resources; and 3) social networks and family relationships. This research provides a clear message for other societies that a focus on grief and isolation ignores the reality that the life world of older widowed women can be enriched by enjoyable and meaningful actions within the context of community and family engagement.Policymakers in Australia and elsewhere need to develop innovative strategies to better empower older widowed women to cope with the economic and social dimensions of modern-day living.