Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated seniors do it. “It” is falling in love. But in the case of our parents, “it” can be maintaining the love in their relationships over many decades.
Enjoying Romantic Love in Older Age
Romance is still a big part of most peoples’ lives and it doesn’t stop at any age.
Whether with their original spouses or remarried, our parents are used to sharing their lives with someone for companionship and true love during their golden years.
In fact, recent studies of romance among older adults may surprise you:
- A National Poll on Aging from the University of Michigan found that 72% of those 65–80 years old reported having a current romantic partner.
- An AARP survey of 800 older women in Southern California found that those under 55 and over 80 were most likely to say they were satisfied with the romance in their lives.
A Few Examples of Real-Life Romantic Love in Later Years
When my wife’s mother died, my father-in-law moved to Leisure World in Southern California. Because he was a spry 71, had a heartbeat, a condo, and a car, he was soon on the receiving end of the “casserole brigade” –– widows on the hunt for their next husband.
A year later, he met and quickly married a younger woman at Leisure World. They didn’t have much in common, so that relationship only lasted a few months.
Later that year, he met another woman at a weekly bridge game. They were a much better match and were married for 15 years until he passed.
A friend of my mother was married four times in her 60s and 70s. Ironically, the fourth husband was the funeral director who she had grown to know after planning the final rights for her first three husbands.
Lonely, But Not Alone: Aging in Place with 24-Hour Care
After my father passed at the age of 89, my mother chose not to remarry. She’s now nearly 101 and frequently tells me, “My kids and grandkids give me plenty of hugs and kisses.”
My family has chosen to let our mom “age in place” in the comfort of the Marin County condo she’s owned since 1971. Because of memory issues, she has 24/7 care.
My siblings and I visit her frequently, often bringing long-time family friends along. One neighbor of a good friend became her “boyfriend” for a while, meaning that they got together every few months for an extended lunch.
How Do Single People Find Romantic Love?
For any relationship of any length, at any age, couples meet in a variety of ways:
- Matchmaking through your personal network. Take advantage of friends and family members who know other seniors looking to date.
- A friend’s house. Meeting new people in this way is casual and allows for friendship to form before they start dating.
- Online dating services. There are many, from AARP’s “How About We” to eHarmony Senior Dating, Our Time, Senior Friend / Finder and numerous niche sites geared towards religious affiliation, gender orientation and location.
- A dating coach, service, or professional matchmaker. This way, the senior will know that the person they go out with has been vetted and is truly looking for romance.
- Community centers and senior centers. Meeting for daytime activities are excellent ways to get to know new folks.
- Activity groups. Meeting someone new here guarantees there is at least one common interest!
- Casual encounters. Senior romance can begin in the grocery store, the bingo hall, the library, or the hot tub at the local swimming pool. Seniors may spot someone of interest and strike up a conversation. Casual encounters are often best as seniors are more relaxed and approachable in these situations.
- Senior living communities. Especially those offering independent living, assisted living, and memory care. In fact, up to 90% of people who move into these communities are single.
Great Date Ideas for Senior Couples
To encourage senior romance to blossom and grow, couples can go out on regular dates. There’s no shortage of great date ideas where seniors can share good company. Whether your looking for yourself or helping a parent, suggest one of these date ideas:
- Go out for a meal. This may seem like an old and tired idea. Spice things up by varying the menu. Indian? Thai? Greek? Vegetarian? Try a different restaurant for a change and experiment by ordering something unfamiliar. For a special treat, reserve a table at an upscale restaurant. Save some room after dinner for dessert and ask your server to bring one dessert with two forks or spoons for sharing.
- Take a dance class. Whether it’s a slow, romantic waltz or an energetic jive, dancing can be a fun idea for seniors. As a bonus, seniors can keep active through dancing. Is one partner in a wheelchair? Dancing may not be impossible! Call the local senior’s association and ask about wheelchair dancing classes. If dancing isn’t their cup of tea, there are often many other different types of classes to explore. Register in a cooking, massage, or yoga class together.
- Rent a vintage automobile and go for a drive. I tried this with my mother when visiting her in Victoria, British Columbia. Mom had driven a VW Beetle in her earlier days and was very fond of her “Bug”. I found a local car rental company which offered a few of these classic cars for rent. Mom and I had some good laughs until I got used to using the stick shift and we had a grand old time driving around! Seniors could also rent other vehicles – is there a model of car that is still on their bucket list to drive?
- Rent a bike. If driving a car proves to be too difficult, seniors can rent bicycles instead. Cyclists can get good exercise, explore areas and view sites at a leisurely pace. Pack along a picnic lunch and pedal to the park. Find a scenic spot to park and relax. Revisit a childhood neighborhood. Senior couples could opt for tandem bikes (or bicycles built for two). These bikes can increase togetherness and encourage cooperation.
- Play a round of mini-golf. Seniors may find completing nine or 18 holes of regular golf unmanageable (even with using a golf cart). Pare that down to a round of mini-golf instead. Mini-golfers use only one club so you won’t have to find a caddy!
- Stroll through a farmer’s market. Who doesn’t like fresh food? Visiting vendors come to farmer’s markets with produce – often just-picked! Seniors can wander around; taste some samples; and purchase fruit, vegetables, and fresh baking to take back home.
- Go horseback riding. If Queen Elizabeth (now in her 90’s) can saddle up and go out for a ride, other seniors could follow her example! If you share a love of horses but can't actually ride, try watching a classic movie like Black Beauty or Seabiscuit.
- Find an indoor activity. Dipping temperatures, bundling up, and shivering outside together may not foster warm feelings! Go skating at an indoor arena, issue a challenge for a game of Scrabble (great to keep the mental wheels churning), meet for a hot chocolate, or cozy up on the couch and watch a movie on Netflix.
What are the Issues when Dating in Old Age?
Safety. Unfortunately, seniors can be easy targets for thieves and scammers. Amorous seniors may be most at risk. A senior, feeling heightened attraction and interest in a senior romance, may trust too much and too quickly. That senior could be taken advantage of financially. Keep your eyes open and your guard up!
Outdated Mindset. Mention senior romance and you may hear some resistance. Seniors may think that they are “too old” for flirtation and might consider it “silly stuff”. But why not? You’re never too old to meet someone new and pursue a romantic relationship. Seniors have much more to offer towards a relationship. Seniors will better know what they like about and want from a romantic partner. Seniors are often more stable as well. These are some very good qualities to offer!
Societal Disapproval. Society can also put a huge downer on senior romance. Senior romance may not be the norm, but there’s no reason to frown. People deserve to feel happy and loved at any age. Whenever I see an older couple walking hand-in-hand down the street, I smile and think, “good for them!”
Tips on Fostering a Successful Relationship
To help senior romance grow, I would recommend the same advice as I would for younger adults. Roots of good old-fashioned communication, honesty, respect, mutual support, and fun result in the best relationships. Considering their advanced ages, seniors may well know a few more things about these qualities than younger couples.
How to React to and Support Senior Romance as Adult Children
Adult children may not readily accept their parents pursuing a new senior romance. Adult children may still be grieving a mother or father’s loss and may not be ready to see a surviving parent move on. In this situation, all parties should move slowly. Consider more casual group get-togethers (e.g. family dinners). Family members could see seniors interacting and enjoying their company together.
As you can see, romance can happen at any age. And it’s comforting to know that you’re never too old to find love… or to find love again.
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