While some people might say that a 40-year age gap between lovers is scandalous, Valda Rodrigues de Oliveira would disagree. The 106-year-old Brazilian woman has just become the oldest woman ever to get engaged. Doctors warned Valda and her 66-year-old boyfriend that they were too old to get married and could not take care of themselves. Instead, they held an engagement ceremony that had all the trappings of a wedding. Valda walked down the aisle in a white dress. They exchanged rings and promised to be loyal to each other. And finally, they sealed it with a kiss.
Valda and Jaco met in a nursing home in 2014. While Jaco is much younger, he is paralyzed in his left arm and needs assistance. Though they are not in the best of health, their love is strong. Jaco said, “I fell in love with Valda from the moment I saw her. I know she’s a little older than me, but that doesn’t matter because she makes me really happy.” The feeling is mutual. She says, “I fell in love with him. I like him a lot. If he dies, I die too.”
Valda and Jaco are inseparable. They spend all day talking, sharing meals, and sitting side by side. It is unclear whether they will eventually get married or not, but they are not letting their age difference get in the way.
The English expression ‘age is just a number’ is a way of saying that age is not important. Our physical age should not stand in the way of doing something like getting married. But until recently, research has shown that people who get married later in life are less likely to get divorced. This makes sense. Older people are more mature. They are more financially secure. And unlike people who marry very young, older people often have had more time to get to know their partner well before tying the knot. All these things could lead to a more stable marriage.
Strangely, the connection between age and divorce is changing. According to research from sociologist, Nicholas Wolfinger, the perfect time to get married is between the late 20s and the mid-30s. Wolfinger says that younger people in their early 20s have a higher rate of divorce. This is no surprise and is consistent with past research. But people over 35 being at an increased risk for divorce is a new phenomenon. Wolfinger is at a loss for why these statistics are changing. He says, “I honestly don’t have a great explanation. What I know for certain is it has happened.”