Comparable networks surveys identified the informal relationships which provide social support to older people in urban Japan, provincial Japan, and urban Australia. Spouses, daughters, and sons were major providers of expressive support in all areas. Older Australians had more expressive support from friends while older Japanese had more instrumental support from daughters-in-law. The gender of the older people and their close ties were highly significant in all areas. The many similarities in the social support patterns contrast sharply with East and West differences in cultural prescripts and living arrangements. In these two advanced countries with long life expectancies and high living standards, older people's interpersonal relationships may be converging on the basis of selective affection and choice, rather than obligation, with individuals in and beyond the household and family.
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