According to a recent Pew Research study, 36% of men and 49% of women ages 65+ are single. Of those, 22% are looking to date – with translates to more than 5 million dating seniors. Most singles keep their options open, with 71% of older Americans (40 years+) saying they are open to casual dates.
Where are these older singles finding each other? 30% are introduced through friends or family, 20% through work, 15% through school, 10% met at a bar or restaurant, and both church and online dating came in at 5% each. 75% of all daters, with not much variation by age, say that it is hard to find people to date, with suburban/rural singles and those looking only for a committed relationship having the most difficulty.
Late-life romances can prove challenging, as they push people out of their comfort zones and sometimes cause issues in other relationships:
- Often older adults have been single for a while before they begin dating and may have a set routine that feels disrupted
- Adult children sometimes oppose an older parent’s romantic involvement, for different reasons: financial; sense of loyalty to the other parent, whether deceased or alive; or a sense of protectiveness over their aging parent
- Older adults whose beloved spouse has passed may feel that a new love is somehow disrespectful to their memory and may feel guilt as a result
- Older adults sometimes feel shame regarding intimacy, believing stereotypes that promote the idea that sexual dormancy is “normal”
Television, movies, and other media promote the idea that romance is for the young. But older adults can feel romance just as intensely as they did in their youth, with experience giving them a better idea of what they are looking for in a partner. By awakening new feelings and experiences, many older adults find dating fosters positive self-growth.
And of course, later-life romance is not for singles only! Partners who have been together for decades can still enjoy an ever-deepening relationship. Their shared experiences and trust can often allow them to try new things together, working on projects, enjoying their grandchildren in a way the busy-ness of their younger life may have prevented with their children, and having time to just talk and enjoy each other’s company.
Many couples find that, especially during the last year with the pandemic, togetherness can be too much of a good thing. It’s also important that couples maintain their independent lives and outlooks. If one partner loved going to the symphony with friends, there are many online concerts available and it’s possible to meet up for “online dinner/drinks” before or after. There are still plenty of virtual volunteer opportunities available. The more each partner interacts with the outside world, the more they have to bring back to the relationship.
Love and connection are important to humans of any age. Later life romance can help individuals look inward to discover what parts of themselves they would like to grow and share with others, and may awaken one’s best possible self.
Sources: Pew Research; Psychology Today