Shared Memories Boost Older Couples’ Intimacy

A shared history helps bond people, especially couples who have been together for many years.  Recounting fond memories can evoke feelings of closeness and support between spouses, helping to reduce depressive symptoms and marital dissatisfaction.  Research also shows that positive marital relationships promote better sleep, and decrease physical impairment, helping to improve overall well-being in older age. 

According to a recent McMaster Optimal Aging Portal blog post, reminiscence therapy is often used to help people living with dementia tap into positive memories that can improve social isolation and depression.  Using all the senses to stimulate memories of past events, people and places, this type of therapy can improve mood, communication, and cognition among people with dementia. 

A recent study of 100 couples over the age of 50 also found that recalling happy shared memories also helped to improve perceived closeness and marital well-being.  Couples, with an average age of 70 for men and 67 for women, shared the story of their first meeting with researchers and then were asked to assess their feelings of closeness and support after the activity.  

Husbands in particular reported a higher sense of closeness after the co-reminiscence activity than their wives, and the length of marriage was linked with fewer depressive symptoms among the husbands only.  Because first dates are considered by most couples as precious moments in a long relationship, recalling these memories helps couples to generate positive feelings about their relationship quality, security, and marital intimacy.  

Using co-reminiscence in a long marriage is a tool that can help couples through stressful times, and strengthen feelings of closeness and support for one another.  Promoting marital satisfaction is an important component of overall psychological well-being for older adults that help make coping with the challenges of aging a bit easier.   

Feeling a bit at odds with your long-time spouse?  A pleasant trip down memory lane might be just the ticket to help boost marital well-being and elicit a greater sense of closeness, support, and security.