Dating among the senior citizen crowd is more common than ever.
People are living longer than ever before, as medical knowledge and technology advance rapidly. Seniors also are staying healthier longer, meaning that they are likely to be in the market for companionship and possibly romance for decades after they retire.
We know from the AARP that 45 percent of Americans over age 65 are divorced, separated, or widowed. If this describes you, or if you simply are living single into your “wisdom years,” senior dating is a perfectly normal option, full of fun possibilities.
There are some wonderful benefits to dating later in life. Without the pressures of work or raising children, you have the freedom to broaden your horizons. Finding someone your age with a secure job, or someone who shares your religion, may no longer be an important consideration. Today, seniors may choose one companion or one romantic partner; or often they find more than one companion with whom they share different interests and activities. In your wisdom years, you are perfectly entitled to have a dancing buddy, a bridge partner, a walking buddy, and several dinner companions. The trick is to be thoughtful, honest and clear about what you’re looking for.
American women live an average of eight years longer than men, giving men the dating advantage of “more fish in the sea.” Assisted living communities tend to have seven female residents for every one man. This is another reason many single women don’t rule out dating a younger man.
Where to start?
Many seniors prefer to meet people the old fashioned way—in person—and there’s no better way to get a good read on someone’s true character. Social activities are a great place to meet people, and they have the built-in benefit of finding someone who shares similar interests. These opportunities abound if you live in a senior community. If you don’t, check out your local senior or community center, your place of worship, your local hospital, college, or county’s listing of community recreation programs and workshops, and event calendars in your local paper. Even your local Office on Aging may be able to point you toward social activities and senior groups near you. Volunteering for a local organization you care about or going on a guided daytrip or vacation for seniors could be great ways to meet people, too.
If you use the Internet, a whole world of possibility is available to you! Check out www.meetup.com, a website where you can find groups of local people who get together to share a variety of interests—virtually everything under the sun. Local event calendars can be found online, on the websites of all the same resources mentioned above. Some local senior programs can be found at www.aarp.org/states.
And of course there are many online dating services that cater to seniors. For example, dating sites run by AARP and OurTime are only for singles over age 50. If you are new to online dating, it’s a good idea to educate yourself or ask someone with experience to help you get started. It is wise to be careful to protect your personal information online, talk to a potential date on the phone first, and then always meet in a safe, public place.
Some considerations and tips for senior dating
- Don’t jump in too soon. If you recently lost a spouse, you probably need time to feel your pain and heal before you’re ready think about someone else. Take time to care for yourself as you would a best friend. For example, make yourself a nice dinner—you deserve it. After some time being patient and compassionate with yourself, you will feel better and ready to enjoy life again.
- Don’t overshare. This can be a very common mistake, especially for someone just getting back into dating after a long hiatus. Conversations on first, second, and third dates should stay pretty light and positive. It is fine to talk about your children and grandchildren, your career, your interests, the places you’ve travelled—but try to focus more on the present than the past. Be aware of not sharing too much, too soon. For example, a casual date probably does not want to hear about all your medical complaints, your former relationships, or your worries.
- Look for good character. There are many questions you can ask a potential love interest that can tell you a lot about their character. Ask about their friends. Take notice if they are honest and if they protect other people’s confidences, keep their promises, and honor their commitments. Are they happy with themselves? Do they admit fault? Do they seem to have personal integrity? Someone who has no other friends, or someone who seems to be looking for a caregiver, is a potential red flag.
- Protect your health. If you are ready to pursue a healthy sex life, please remember that even seniors need to stay safe. Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise among seniors, which means you and your partner should be screened for STDs or use protection.
- Protect your finances. Later in life, it may be wise to keep your finances separate from your romantic partner’s. If you decide to get married, consider a prenuptial agreement or a religious-only ceremony, and have frank discussions with your children ahead of time to help everyone feel comfortable with your decisions.