By Trena-Winans-Bagnall, Senior Services Education & Community Outreach Director.
It is not uncommon to hear at Senior Services people wishing they had a love interest in their lives. They are far from alone. With the burgeoning population of people above the age of 60, higher rates of divorce, and increased likelihood of widowhood, loneliness amongst this age group is widespread. Particularly women, who typically live longer than their male counter-parts, may crave companionship. According to the Administration on Aging, currently 46% of American women over the age of 65 are living alone.
Alongside this trend comes a dramatic increase in dating sites aimed at the 50+ market. SeniorsMeet, SeniorMatch, SeniorSinglesMeet, SeniorPeopleMeet: the list goes on and on!
So what are the pros, cons and precautions to finding new love?
Pros: Studies show that married seniors or older adults in close relationships experience better health and longer lives. According to Sami Hassanyeh, AARP’s chief digital officer, “Your social circle and social interactions really are directly correlated to your level of happiness.” When you’re happy you stay healthier longer. It also means you are able to watch out for each other on a day to day basis and help each other with changes in health.
Cons: There is just no delicate way to say it. With the rise in later life dating and the availability of ED medications, there has been a dramatic rise in the spread of STDs in this age group. This is particularly troubling given that this age group is rarely tested for these diseases, and thus may discover it late when infections are harder to treat.
A diagnosis of dementia for one partner in an Act 2 marriage brings some additional challenges. Since recent memories are typically the first to go, the new spouse can find themselves forgotten fairly early in the disease process. Additionally, research shows that adult stepchildren often are unwilling to help a stepparent and more likely to engage in conflict over issues like finances and inheritance.
Precautions: The downsides need not deter you from seeking a new relationship! Remarried and cohabiting couples report better well-being and increased social support. Still, it is worth keeping some precautions in mind.
- If using online dating sites, protect your identity, and take it slow. Not everyone is fully honest in their profiles. Take time to get to know the person online before phone, by phone before meeting in person, and in a public place when you do finally meet.
- If you decide it is time to make a new relationship intimate, remember that condoms are not just for birth control, but also for protecting yourself from disease. There is no age limit on STDs.
- If you decide to get married, have open conversations first about sticky issues that may come up later such as inheritance, care costs, and relationships with other members of each family. Work to establish good, open and caring relationships with the family of your newfound love.
So once you’ve decided you would be open to a new relationship, the obvious question is how to find someone? When you look at advice columns, there are several common suggestions that emerge.
- Get out there!You are highly unlikely to meet someone in your kitchen! Some places you might meet someone could be church, a discussion group, a gym, a party or at one of our Centers.
- Follow your interests and passions Painting, writing, photography? Appearance is less important to most people than finding a person who is interesting, so do things you love or always wanted to try.
- Online dating Many people have had great luck. Just make sure to follow safety precautions.
- Volunteer! You may find someone who shares the same values, and even if not, volunteering gives a great sense of fulfillment.
- TravelSingle travel can be a lot of fun, or join a tour. You never know where you might meet that special someone!
If a new relationship is not something you want, or is just not working out, try to meet and make new friends. Senior Centers are a great place to start!