This book explores the unique group of elders, ages fifty-five and older, who practice some form of consensual nonmonogamy. It covers both the joys and challenges of multiple relationships for elders and explores how their relationships develop and evolve. Polyamorous elders have the complexities of juggling multiple relationships, as well as navigating all the issues of aging: managing medical conditions and disabilities (their own and/or their partners’); assuming caregiving responsibilities for aging relatives; grieving the deaths of parents, siblings, and partners; retiring from careers and starting new lives; and potentially moving into some form of senior living.
Drawing from her extensive clinical and personal experience working with this population, Kathy Labriola provides anecdotes from polyamorous elders’ lives, including the constellation of relationships surrounding each individual, couple, or triad. This guide will help health care and mental health clinicians, researchers, and professionals, as well as polyamorous elders and their loved ones, better understand the concerns and diverse lifestyles of this population to better represent and support them.
Kathy Labriola is a counselor, nurse, and hypnotherapist in a private practice in Berkeley, California, providing affordable mental health services to people in nontraditional relationships for the past thirty years, including the polyamorous, kink, LGBTQ, and sex worker communities. She is the author of Love in Abundance: A Counselor’s Advice on Open Relationships, The Jealousy Workbook, and The Polyamory Break-Up Book: Causes, Prevention, and Survival. She has been a political activist and a card-carrying bisexual and polyamorist for fifty years. She is "extra crunchy" and lives in a housing cooperative, where she bikes, raises chickens, and grows organic vegetables. Her personal website is www.kathylabriola.com.
What Is the Prevalence of Polyamory among Elders?
The “Greatest Generation” and the “Baby Boomers”
Intersectionality and Poly Elders
Studies That Attempt to Fill in the Gaps on Information about Poly Elders
The Demographics of Case Studies and Examples Presented of Poly Elders
PART I: WHAT CHALLENGES ARE MOST COMMON FOR POLY GEEZERS?
1 First of All, Sex!
The Changing Nature of Sex for Poly Geezers
Case Study #1: Elise
The Challenges of Sex for Poly Geezers
Case Study #2: Danilo
Case Study #3: Anastasia
Case Study #4: Libby
Strategies Developed by Poly Elders to Solve the Sexual Changes of Aging
Case Study #5: Jake and Nora
Case Study #6: Joseph
Case Study #7: Sita
Case Study #8: Lise
Being Poly Can Help Couples Navigate Sexual Problems and Find Delightful Solutions
Case Study #9: Jordan and Lourdes
Case Study #10: Dolly and Jim
2 Some Poly People Naturally Shift to Monogamy as They Age
Case Study #1: Mary and Gene
Case Study #2: Vicky and Bart
Case Study #3: Terry and Randy
3 Poly Geezers and Celibacy: Is There a Contradiction?
What’s Sex Got to Do with It? Flourishing Poly Relationships, but without the Sex!
Case Study #1: Paul, Stacey, and Daniel
Case Study #2: Francois, Audrey, and Jeannie
Case Study #3: Jerome and Raphael
Case Study #4: LaRonda and Beeandra
4 The Curious Phenomenon of Successful Older Poly-Mono Couples
Case Study #1: Rachel, Matt, and Jerry
Case Study #2: Lauren and Kumar
Case Study #3: Ayisha, Betty, and Roger
Case Study #4: Geraldine and Dre
Case Study #5: Sharon, Benny, and Pam
The Unique Benefits of Poly Relationships for Older Monogamous Women
Cautionary Tales on the Challenges of a Mono-Poly Relationship
Case Study #6: Shirley
Case Study # 7: Hazel
A Few Other Older Women’s “Short Takes” on the Benefits of Mono/Poly Relationships
5 Elders Trying to Explain Polyamory to Their Adult Kids
Case Study #1: Nancy, Emma, and Carrie
Case Study #2: Jon
6 Older People Who Were “Poly before Polyamory Was Invented”
Case Study #1: Harry and Hope
Case Study #2: Linda, Bruce, and Cliff
Case Study #3: Danielle and Valentino
Case Study #4: Frank, Lisa, and Crystal
7 Conflicts over a Partner’s Adult Children and/or Grandchildren
Case Study #1: Lucy, Reginald, and Jim
Case Study #2: Betsy, Stella, and Ginger
PART II: RETIREMENT AND ITS EFFECTS ON POLYAMOROUS RELATIONSHIPS
8 When One Partner Is Already Retired and Another Partner Eventually Retires
Case Study #1: Warren, Jen, and Aja
Case Study #2: Karen, Benjamin, and Louellen
9 When One Partner Retires but One or More Partners Are Still Working
Case Study #1: Joe, Martha, Jerry, and Anita
Case Study #2: Kelly, Bill, Phil, and Sue
10 Retirement Can Create More Time and Energy for Poly Relationships, and Poly Geezers Are Pretty Good at Time and Energy Management
Poly Geezers Tend to Have Excellent Time and Energy Management Skills
Case Study #1: Blanche
Case Study #2: Tommy, Janet, and Bertha
Are Elders Good at Polyamory or Is Polyamory Good for Elders?
11 Retirement Can Shine a Spotlight on Incompatibilities
Ricardo and Maria’s Story
Case Study #1: Joanna, Buddy, Harriet, and Tad
PART III: WHEN POLY ELDERS WANT (OR NEED) TO MOVE INTO SENIOR LIVING FACILITIES
12 Poly Elders Fear Discrimination and Hostility in Senior Housing
Case Study #1: Joanne, Jay, and Patsy
Case Study #2: Pierre and Pharell
Case Study #3: Miriam
Stan and Martin’s Story
Case Study #4: Ellen, Jamie, and Evie
13 What Are the Options for Polys in Senior Living?
Sex-Positive Senior Housing: Is That an Oxymoron?
Elder Care Professionals’ Perspectives on Poly Elders and Senior Living Facilities
Lessons from the Experience of LGBTQ Elders in Senior Living Facilities
Case Study #1: Russell, Matilda, and Ray
Case Study #2: Evelyn, Lou, and Nikki
Senior Cohousing Communities May Be a Poly-Friendly Senior Housing Option
PART IV: POLY GEEZERS COPING WITH HEALTH PROBLEMS AND DISABILITIES
14 The Effects of Medical Conditions on Poly Elders and Relationships
Case Study #1: Rhonda, Josh, and Sarona
Medical Conditions Complicate the Logistics and Romance of Poly Relationships
Case Study #2: Rajah, Sabre, Rachel, and Dasan
Tanika and Katherine’s Story
Case Study #3: Miles, Shane, and Art
Case Study #4: Jacinda, Maddy, and Millie
15 Caregiving Responsibilities for Elderly Relatives
“Younger Elders” with Responsibilities for Elderly Parents
Case Study #1: Wanda and Amelia
Case Study #2: Orit, Aryeh, and Donna Sue
No “One Right Answer” to Caring for Elderly Parents
Case Study #3: Keiko, Rich, and Frank
Case Study #4: Robbie
Strategies and Planning for Successful Caregiving
16 Advantages of Polyamory through Caregiving, Death, and Mourning
Kate, Gustav, and Phillip’s Story
17 Twenty-First-Century Pandemics and Poly Elders: Lessons from the Age of COVID-19
How Are Poly Elders Coping in the Age of COVID-19?
Case Study #1: Lindsey, Jose, and Maris
The Impact of Isolation and Loneliness on Poly Elders Due to COVID-19
Case Study #2: Myrna
Case Study #3: Mary Jo, Emile, and Hallie
Case Study #4: Joan, Juan, and June
Marlene and Mary’s Story
Case Study #5: Kimberly, Frank, and Iris
Case Study #6: Amy Ann, Zekia, and Shelley
Internet Dating in the Midst of a Pandemic
Sumati Sparks’ Pandemic Dating Advice
Case Study #7: Rosalinda, Xavier, and Gemina
Internet Dating May Morph into Dating in Real Life
Case Study #8: Moira, Guillermo, and Lee
18 Poly Mutual Aid: Elders’ Polycules Come through for Them during the Pandemic
Case Study #1: Lucille, Duncan, and Kara
Poly Elders Find Stronger Support from Their Polycules
Case Study #2: Lei
Case Study #3: Sarah, Rashi, and Harlan
Poly Elders’ Experience with Grief and Loss during the Pandemic
Parting Words on the COVID-19 Pandemic and Poly Elders
PART V: POLYAMORY AND THE DEVELOPMENTAL TASKS OF AGING
19 What Are the Developmental Tasks for Poly Elders?
Case Study #1: Hans and Meg
20 Poly Geezers Creating a New Life “Postcareer and Postkids”
Case Study #1: Shereen, Ranil, and Denise
21 “Life Review” as a Developmental Task for Poly Geezers
Case Study #1: Marcus, Gwen, and Lola
Case Study #2: Debbie
22 Poly Elders Accepting the Deaths of Loved Ones, and Their Own Mortality
Case Study #1: Geri, Frank, and Angela
Case Study #2: Alonzo
Case Study #3: Deonte, Linden, Lon, and John
Case Study #4: Louise and Natalie
Poly Elders’ Unique Experience of the Developmental Tasks of Aging
23 Legal and Financial Issues for Poly Elders: Estate Planning, Advance Directives, and Other Strategies to Protect Poly Families
Advance Health Care Directives
Durable Power of Attorney
Estate Planning Advice from Poly-Friendly Attorneys
Divorce or the Demise of a Poly Relationship
Strategies to Mitigate the High Cost of Care
Poly Elders Need to Talk about “The Three Ds”: Disability, Death, and Divorce
24 A Few Parting Words and Directions for Further Study
Bibliography: Books on Consensual Nonmonogamy, Open Relationships, and Polyamory
Compiled by Sonia Song
About the Author
A monumental work by a well-seasoned polyamory counselor that explores a little known segment of the burgeoning polyamory lifestyle: GETTING OLD. I loved the detailed case studies that amplify the complexity of polyamory. This book is destined to become a well-deserved polyamory classic.
Kathy Labriola’s new book Polyamorous Elders: Aging in Open Relationships is well-researched, highly engaging, filled with excellent information, and comprehensive. It draws on the author’s extensive experience as a counselor working with polyamorous clients, and offers up many accounts of real-life personal challenges related to aging in open relationships. The author’s deep care, respect, and expertise shine through, making this book a substantial support to an ever-growing and underserved population while also giving all readers a rare lens into what well-functioning polyamory looks like.
Kathy Labriola’s book is a must-read for 'polyamorous "elders,"' helping professionals serving them, and supportive friends and family members. Through case studies drawn from her decades of counseling experience, Labriola illuminates the challenges that can confront polyamorous seniors. But just as importantly, she demonstrates the unique resiliency of this community and the ways they can rise to the occasion and overcome these challenges. As a researcher, educator, and 'poly geezer' myself, I consistently found myself nodding in recognition as Labriola laid out the life experiences of her clients. I know I’ll be sharing it widely!
In Polyamorous Elders: Aging in Open Relationships, Kathy Labriola gives us an intimate window into the lives of older individuals whose zest for life still burns bright. Whether for love, sex, companionship or all of the above, older individuals know they have earned the right to choose the path that fits them best and enables them to enjoy levels of satisfaction and bliss that often elude the younger and less experienced. My wish for you, dear reader, is that these personal stories will inspire you to live your life to its very fullest regardless of your age.
Having enjoyed Kathy Labriola's previous work, I was delighted to read her latest. She approaches polyamorous relationships with an accessible, thoughtful, and deft sense of compassion and thorough research.
Polyamorous elders are a fast-growing, yet under-represented group of people who hold gems of wisdom that can benefit the rest of us. Aging outside of the nuclear, mononormative family template has its challenges, but also distinct joys and advantages. No one would be in a better position to provide a uniquely informed window into this territory than Kathy Labriola, a member of the polyamorous community for nearly half a century and a pioneering counselor to folks in non-traditional relationship styles.
In this book, Labriola leaves no stone unturned in describing the lives of those she affectionately calls 'poly geezers.' This includes sex, health concerns, time management, legal protection of aging polyamorous families, intersectionality, death and grief, the COVID pandemic, and more. She punctuates the book with engaging and colorful stories of real polyamorous elders—making this an approachable read for scholars and non-scholars alike.
This text is a readable and engaging look into the lives of polyamorous elders. It is suitable for researchers or clinical practitioners hoping to apply the work, but would also serve well as an entranceway for academics and students investigating sex and aging and looking for more data and overall consideration of polyamorous relationships. A timely topic deserving of more attention.
As a Relational Therapist who works with polyamorous clients, I was delighted to read Polyamorous Elders. This book offers a comprehensive and evidence-based guide to better understand the lived experiences of aging polyamorous folks. I believe that after reading Polyamorous Elders, practitioners will be more equipped to facilitate effective individual and relational therapeutic services to polyamorous clients.
This book is engaging, accessible, expansive, and detailed. Obviously, it helps that the topic is fascinating, but Labriola presents these issues and cases in a straightforward and non-judgmental fashion. I routinely had my assumptions challenged even though I consider myself open-minded and have studied polyamory and human sexuality for several years. The strengths of this text include the author's expertise and clinical experience, the broad variety of polyamorous relationships presented, sympathetic attention to their challenges, and the good faith effort to honor intersectionality so as to sufficiently represent as many polyamorous people and relationships as possible.
This book uniquely considers the special needs and outlook of people fifty-five and older who identify as polyamorous. Not just an overview or a self-help book, the approach and information are very well-supported from the author's deep knowledge of polyamory, polyamorous communities, and her ongoing work with aging clients.
This is an essential guide for counselors, therapists and healthcare professionals working with polyamorous clients. The author has managed to address so many issues, from sex life to retirement to facing death and grief, and has done so insightfully, drawing on several case studies. As a family therapist and an openly polyamorous person over fifty, I am thrilled to see this book finally out in the world!
As both an aspiring “polygeezer” and CNM (consensual non-monogamy) psychologist, I feel that this volume spoke to my heart and my practice. Labriola’s work opens up the often-untold stories of polyamorous elders and allows us to learn from their lived experiences and worlds. The accounts Labriola shares are multifaceted and honest portrayals of the distinct challenges polyamorous elders face and the ways that they are navigated!
The author is a front-line therapist with direct experience working with the polyamorous/CNM (consensual non-monogamy) population, and the approach leans heavily on this direct clinical experience. This qualitative review is likely to stimulate further research in this area and is particularly useful for practitioners seeing elders in non-monogamous relationship structures.
A one-of-a-kind primer on the subject of polyamory and aging. The writing and style is very accessible to a wide audience, and Kathy Labriola gives her interviewees a lot of space to speak. A collection of unique stories not only centering on consensual non-monogamy and relationships, but indeed the meaning of aging itself.
This book is a fantastic addition to the conversation on polyamory and non-monogamous relationships and a helpful and validating tool for both young and old polyamorous folx who want to know more about aging in open relationships. This book is also a wonderful introduction to the unique experiences of ‘poly geezers’ for anyone who is interested—especially therapists, coaches, sex educators, lawyers, and other helpers.
Polyamorous Elders: Aging in Open Relationships is an essential addition to any affirmative therapist's library as this fills a much-needed gap regarding 'poly geezers'. Kathy Labriola's fun and quirky writing style allows the reader to fully engage across a wide range of complex and sometimes difficult topics in clinical work. The extensive number of examples effectively highlight the wide range of experiences, both in terms of challenges and advantages of multiple partners while aging.
Readers gain valuable insight into the unexplored world of polyamorous elders and the unique situations they encounter during life transitions. Using their lived experiences, Labriola provides expert advice for any clinician wanting to dive into the intersection of sexuality, aging, and consensual non-monogamy.
Polyamorous Elders is a treasure trove of lively, detailed anecdotes from the population documenting their experiences, frank attention to serious issues around aging, and suggestions for how aging polyamorous people might navigate life challenges. The section on the trials posed by COVID-19 is especially timely, and this book fills an important gap in the existing scholarship.
This book is one that polyamorous elders will instantly find to hold many recognizable themes, as well as comfort around our shared experiences in those realms. The author has a very accessible, down to earth, and humorous approach to discussing some serious topics, with vignettes that are very relatable.
Polyamorous Elders is essential reading for people who hope to grow old with multiple partners, as well as for the therapists, social workers, hospital and nursing facility leaders, doctors, and nurses who will need to help them along.
Old School: Anti-Ageism Clearinghouse: