Do Nonagenarians siblings provide mutual support? Insights from the EU GeHA project

Elisa Cevenni, Laura Celani, Jennifer NM Rea, Anna Numminen, Oskar Virras, Kasia Broczeke, Ewa Sikora, Claudio Franceschi, Maeve Rea

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstractpeer-review


Introduction.– Sibling relationships have been described as intimate,
congenial, loyal, apathetic or hostile but little is known about
sibling relationships in very old age.Weasked nonagenarian brothers
and sisters from the EU-funded Genetics of Healthy Ageing
(GeHA) project whether they had felt supported by having a living
sibling to have better coping abilities.
Methods and results.– Nonagenarian siblings were a convenience
sample from four countries from the GeHA study–Italy, Poland,
N Ireland, Finland. All were consented willing participants. Most
male/female dyads demonstrated healthy respect for each other’s
opinion and their sibling relationship fits the “loyal” type, though
with a clear sense of independence.Noneof the eight female/female
nor the one male/male dyad seemed to fit the “intimate” description;
two might be described as “apathetic”, while the other two
seemed to show aspects of family “loyalty”, alongside other traits
perhaps best described as “congenial”. There were apparent different
cultural influences across Europe with siblings in Italy and
Poland more likely to report supportive siblinghood, compared to
sibling pairs/trios in Finland or N Ireland where self-resilience and
independence seemed more common. Polish and Italian nonagenarians
often felt supported by their religious faith and church.
Conclusions.– In general, nonagenarian siblings most often demonstrated
loyal family relationships, which may have helped each
other’s coping and survival mechanisms. However, there was
widespread evidence of tolerance for individual decision-making.
Perhaps rather, these 90-year-olds survive because they are
resilient and independent and don’t need to depend on each other!
Original languageEnglish
Article numberp157
Pages (from-to)S79-S80
Number of pages1
JournalEuropean Geriatric Medicine
Volume 3S (2012) S33–S143
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Longevity
  • nonagenarian siblings
  • supportive care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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  • R6229GRM: GEHA.

    Rea, M.

    01/08/2004 → …

    Project: Research

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