Seniors Happily Living In Sin

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and oral historian Studs Terkel gestures during an interview at his home May 15, 2007, a day before his 95th birthday, in Chicago. Terkel became famous for allowing ordinary people to tell their own stories about how they got through the Great Depression, World War II and even their own work day and what they thought about everything from race to dying.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
People are living longer than they used to - long enough to have many long-lasting relationships in a lifetime. But the older people get, the less likely they are to walk down the aisle. The Early Show Contributor Debbye Turner reports.

Ed Poole is 86; Sarah Schoener is 78. They tend to their garden as if they've been together for decades. But their relationship only started nine years ago when the widow and widower went on their first date.

"I said.'Would you like to go to opera with me?' And she said. 'Yes, only if I can pay for my own ticket.' And I said, 'That's not necessary, pay for it?' Oh, I insist.. so I said ok," says Poole.

"And I always say at that point those were the last tickets I ever paid for!" adds Schoener.

Three months later, they began discussing marriage.

"Just the fact that we had so much in common. That was the moment for me right there, that was the woman for me, I wanted to be with her the rest of my life," says Poole. "I love her very much."

"He's very romantic," adds Schoener.

But marriage can be a tricky proposition for seniors, says Dorian Solot, the executive director of the Alternatives to Marriage project.

"For many seniors, there are financial reasons for not getting remarried… losing Social Security benefits, etc.," notes Solot.

"It was certainly financially a lot more sensible and practical because I retained my deceased husband's Social Security and his was a lot more lucrative than my own," says Schoener. "So for middle-class people, the amount involved was considerable and it made the difference in all the extra things that we now had the time and the leisure and the interest in doing. Opera tickets are expensive!"

So instead of re-marrying, the couple just moved in with each other.

"It seemed like it made sense for us to be living in one house, financially and for the convenience of being together in every way," says Schoener.

"We love to travel, we love the opera, we love the ballet, I can't think of anything that we don't enjoy that we do, we're always on the go," says Poole.

"The number of unmarried senior couples has increased 60 percent in the last decade. They're imitating their grandchildren," notes Solot.

"We weren't raising children and we didn't have anyone to be accountable to, in the same way as maybe we did when, you know, parents were watching," says Schoener. "It really didn't trouble me in the least to be living in sin, as we might have referred to it when we were younger."

So how has the couple being doing, now that they share a home?

"The adjustment for me was not sharing turf, it was the physical space. I had an 8-room, 3-bath house, half an acre, so it's a physical difference for me," says Poole. And Schoener, who has been living in the house for 50 years, says it has been hard.

"He was always banging into doors and open closets, and the edge of the bed. It took him a while to get used to the smallness. And when he looked out at this little backyard, compared to that half-acre garden park that he used to have, he used to look down his nose, but see, he's planted flowers and he loves it," she adds.

"And we also have the cat, whose nickname is Coosey meaning 'child of our senior years', so we share an offspring," says Schoener with a laugh.

To Schoener, living with Poole has been particularly important at this time in her life.

"We're losing a lot of friends, people are here today and gone tomorrow. For every day that we have, I have someone to share it with and to enrich the days that we do have left. I think that's a blessing," she says.

"I'll put it as succinctly as possible, she's my significant other!!! Every human being needs a significant other; you need someone to love and someone to love you back." Poole adds. I'll tell you, these are the happiest days of my life."

"Isn't that something sweet?" Schoener asks.

Poole and Schoener will celebrate their ninth anniversary this weekend, marking the day of their first date at the opera. And although they feel no real urge to get married, both said they probably would if laws were changed to protect their Social Security and other benefits. Until then, they'll be living "in sin" happily ever after.