Successful Romantic Relationships amongst over Sixties

Kate Burke, Psychologist in Clinical Training NUI Galway
Jan 28 2013 Posted: 10:44 GMT

Participants needed for new study

As the build-up to Valentine’s Day begins, for one NUI Galway researcher it’s an opportunity to ask the over sixties to tell her about love.

Kate Burke, a doctoral student at NUI Galway, wants to examine the importance of romantic relationships for people over the age of 60. She has created a questionnaire and ideally needs around 200 people to participate. Apart from being over 60, participants should also either be in a romantic relationship or have been in a relationship within the last 10 years.

“We are hoping to identify the most important elements of successful romantic relationships, and how these factors influence one another”, explains Kate, who is a Trainee Clinical Psychologist and carrying out her research under the supervision of Dr Michael Hogan, Lecturer in Psychology at NUI Galway.

Successful romantic relationships are recognised as being beneficial for psychological wellbeing and physical health. Communication, intimacy, sex and love have been found to be important in relationship satisfaction, however this research is usually completed with younger couples.

“Older adults are largely neglected when it comes to this kind of research”, says Kate, “with the focus being on younger people and newlyweds. However, I think older people have a lot of experience and can offer a different perspective that younger people can’t.”

In order to create the survey, Kate has already carried out some in-depth research with a group of younger people, and older people. Using what’s known as collective intelligence methodology, Kate was able to establish some stark differences between the focus groups.

“So far, in testing this research area, we think that older people see honesty as being the fundamental driver of all other elements of successful romantic relationships. Honesty is an interesting concept as it involves self-disclosure and risks putting an individual in a vulnerable position, and yet the ability to disclose honestly can facilitate a deeper level of intimacy in the relationship. The older adult group were able to draw on their experience and recognise honesty as critical to the long-term success of romantic relationships.”

For younger adults, communication and trust significantly enhance all elements of relationship success. Older adults also acknowledged the importance of communication and both younger and older adults identified intimacy as an important component of relationship success.

However, there were also differences in the elements of relationship success identified by younger and older adults.  Specifically, older adults argued for the importance of religion, companionship, and respect, whereas younger adults argued for the importance of attraction, compatibility and love.

“The survey will hopefully build on our previous findings and provide some statistical information about this interesting topic, allowing us to learn more about what’s important in loving relationships for older people. The survey itself is a series of tick box questions, and hopefully should only take people half an hour to fill out. It would be great if people could share their experience with us.”

Those who wish to participate in the online study should log onto

Participants can also complete the survey in paper format by contacting Kate on 0879451299 or All participants’ data will be kept confidential with no identifying information attached to the questionnaires.


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