(To find out the answer, click "Continue reading...").
Actually, no, it doesn't. A Canadian woman can expect to live to 83, a Canadian man to 78, giving women a 5 year edge in life expectancy. However when we talk about health adjusted life expectancy, or HALE - that is, the number of healthy years men and women can expect to live - the difference shrinks dramatically. According to the most recent data I could find (2005/7), men can expect 68.9 HALE years, women 71.2, a difference of just over 2 years.
So who is the caregiver? The picture shown above is one that Colleen Muldoon posted of her grandparents, James and Lauretta Burke. James and Lauretta were married for 64 years but - as is so often the case - the end was not easy for them. According to a Huffington Post interview with Ms Muldoon:
A few years ago, her grandmother [Lauretta] was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
"Once she started being forgetful, he’d step up and remember the birthdays and graduations," Muldoon said. "My grandma was the stubborn one in the beginning but at the end her mind failed her, which was really hard to see."
Shortly after the dementia began to take hold of his wife, who is now 84, James, 87, underwent a surgery to implant a pacemaker in his heart, taking him in and out of the hospital for months earlier this year.
"He was basically living for her," Muldoon said. "They were like the same person after being together for so long, and he didn’t want to give up because she knew that he needed him there."
He used his last moments to write instructions into his will that laid out his wife's future, leaving her with the best possible treatment for her Alzheimer's, Muldoon said.
So who's the caregiver? James, the husband, cared for his wife as long as he was able.
The first reason for writing this post is to point out how our snap judgements, "stylized facts" and pre-conceptions can be wrong. When I first looked at the picture, I assumed that the wife was looking after the husband.
The second point I want to make is that the gender dynamics of population aging are both complicated and really depressing. I hope and pray for simultaneous system failure: my mind, my body, and my money all giving out at the same time. It doesn't happen that way. Too often some bits of us go before others,and we are left with a strong mind in an infirm body, or a strong body with a feeble mind, or with a strong mind and body but lacking the requisite material resources for a dignified life.
Men - how I envy them - are more likely to experience simultaneous system failure. Women can expect more years of morbidity at the end of their life (see the chart above, reproduced from this OECD publication).
This post is also for the regular WCI reader who called me the other day and asked me if I was interested in writing something on gender and population aging. I'd like to help you out, but it's really depressing topic. Really, really depressing. Writing about shopping carts or modern art is way more fun.