Leonard Shaw has a list on his calendar of all the important people he's lost: a sister, two brothers, his mother and his wife. Not surprisingly, the last one was particularly hard. He's marked the date of her passing on the calendar right next to her name on the list: March 20, 2001.

He met his wife, Janis, when they were still teenagers. She was his high school sweetheart. They were married 50 years. She was the only girl he ever really dated.

But his wife suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and was sick and in pain for much of their marriage. When Shaw retired from being a school psychologist, he cared for his wife full time. In the end, she had cancer, heart problems and kidney failure. Given all the pain she was in, he says he was relieved when she finally passed-although it devastated him.

"I got my kids together and started gifting them money. I thought I didn't need it. I wasn't planning on living very long," says Shaw, who is now 78. "I didn't want to be around anyone. I just wanted to fade away, I guess. I was pretty lost."

Shaw wasn't rich, but he'd worked his whole life for a decent salary, had planned well financially, and was receiving pensions from the N.Y. State Teachers Retirement System and from TIAA-CREF.   

"When I started gifting my kids money, my son, Scott, said, 'Dad, I don't need it.' And my daughter, Kim, couldn't get enough of it," he says.
About that time, he began babysitting the dog who lived next door, while its owner, Sue, a nurse who was 15 years his junior, was at work. Shaw says the dog grew quite fond of him, following him back and forth as he mowed the lawn, and if Shaw went around the corner, the dog would bark until         Shaw came back into sight. Five months later, he took Sue out for an ice cream cone. About a year-and-a-half later, they were married.
"I told her I'm not the catch of the day, but maybe she'd consider it. She said she already had, and she was interested," Shaw says.

Thomas Crook, a clinical psychologist and CEO of Cognitive Research Corp. in St. Petersburg, Fla., says men appear to bounce back more quickly than women when they lose a spouse. While he acknowledges his observations are anecdotal, he says that when women lose their husbands, they have a tendency to go into a deep depression and suffer an inability to feel pleasure, a condition that can last a lifetime. Men, on the other hand, often remarry. They will miss their mate, but they are able to bond with someone else, he says.
"Males tend to be more resilient. They need to re-attach. And when they re-attach, their mood improves," Crook says. "Females tend not to re-attach and to endure that mood."

Crook blames part of it on the marketplace: Men die first, so the size of the market for older females is substantially smaller than it is for males. When it comes to finances, Crook says generally speaking, women will hunker down and become more conservative while men are more likely to view it as a new chapter in their lives. If anyone is going to behave erratically in this period, it's men, Crook says.

"Females tend to retreat into the family. So they tend to reinforce those relationships with their children or grandchildren, and that is generally associated with conservatism. They're less likely to gamble on things," Crook says. "I think males, less often, retreat into the family. They're looking for substitutes for their spouse, and that can lead to a whole new life."

But that's not true for everyone. Robert Westfall, a 47-year-old software engineer in Rochester, lost his wife four years ago, and he has not remarried. In fact he's barely dating.

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