Someday, many people will face being single again, more so for seniors. Facing the loss of a spouse or ending a long-term relationship can create anxiety over wading back into the dating pool. Single seniors thinking of dating again should be aware of the benefits of meeting new people and possibly new relationships, but there are a few issues to consider.
“Many newly or recently single senior adults, especially those from long-term relationships, face two choices after becoming single: isolate and retreat into themselves or get back into the social scene,” says Brenda Brinson, a licensed marital and family therapist with the Generations behavioral health program at Integris Southwest Medical Center in Oklahoma City. “The senior’s mental outlook often determines their quality and quantity of life. A new relationship at any age creates an excitement and newness for the individual. Seniors are no different.”
Psychological and Physical Benefits
“There are many strong associations in medicine that a person involved in a warm, close relationship is less likely to be depressed,” says Dr. Laurence Rubenstein, M.D., chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in Oklahoma City. “In general a person in a stable [relationship] enjoys a longer life.”
Rubenstein says seniors engaged in a caring, intimate relationship generally experience good physiological and physical outcomes.
“As long as the person is healthy, a sexual relation is encouraged. Even in those situations when the inability exists, there’s a lot to be said for the comfort factor of closeness,” he says.
Seniors should avoid excuses such as, “I’m too old, too out of step with the times” or “Nobody will pick me” to talk themselves out of dating if they are interested. Taking the first step back into dating following years in a long relationship will be scary, but the experience can be enriching. Most importantly, it’s important to be true to oneself and to others, whether you plan to use the old-fashioned route of meeting people in person or through today’s online dating scene.
Many seniors think of the Internet as the domain of Generation Y, yet the fastest growing demographic using social networking is ages 75 and older. Online dating sites offer a host of chances to find people with specific interests, faiths, politics, ages and hobbies. Besides dating, these websites also offer endless opportunities for new friendships and reconnecting with old friends, but beware – scammers, con artists and others with ulterior motives may be watching.[pullquote]“On a second date, I discovered we shared a mutual friend,” Deedra says. “It helped me feel secure. He finally brought up exclusivity and said he had a feeling about our relationship’s future potential. He asked if I would consider dating only him for the next 30 days to see how the relationship evolved.[/pullquote]
Dating sites cannot prevent dishonesty, and some profiles stretch the truth. Those new to online dating should take it slow and pay attention to their gut reactions. Some popular sites offer safety tips for online dating that are always worth a look. They often advise users to not reveal too much personal information, including financial information. Another good guideline – online dating website users should not have those initial meetings at home. Only after getting to know someone better in person after a period of time is it a good idea to place that degree of trust.
Lynette* is a divorced woman, who tried online dating. One match “talked the talk” on the telephone and presented a charming, friendly nature. He even sent flowers.
“He asked me to come for a visit,” Lynette says. “I suggested he pick me up at my friend’s house, which seemed safe. Feeling comfortable after a nice meal, I agreed to coffee at his home. When we went into his living room, I saw multiple framed pictures of myself from my Facebook page. Shocked and uncomfortable, I asked him to take me to my friend’s [house].”
Another online dating user, Deedra* thought she took all the necessary precautions. When a man she agreed to meet told her on a first date that his birthday was the same day as her late husband’s birthday, she wasn’t too concerned.
“On a second date, I discovered we shared a mutual friend,” Deedra says. “It helped me feel secure. He finally brought up exclusivity and said he had a feeling about our relationship’s future potential. He asked if I would consider dating only him for the next 30 days to see how the relationship evolved.
“I agreed, having nothing to lose. I called our mutual friend, telling about the coincidence and our 30-day pact,” Deedra continues. “After a pause, they told me my new man was dating another friend from a dating site.”
The Real Thing
Not all dating experiences – online or not – will end in disaster. Often times, even the worse dates can turn into learning experiences that one can use to find the genuine thing.
“I was like a high school kid discovering beer,” says Lynette. “[But] all I went through in discovery made me the person I am today, and that includes being happy with the choices I made. I was lucky enough to find somebody to spend the rest of my life with. It would never [have] happened if I hadn’t taken the chance.”
*Some last names and other personal information have been omitted at sources’ request.
When you’re ready to date again …
- Start slow.
- Consider meeting people at gyms, grandchildren’s activities, classes for adults (such as drawing or language classes) or at church functions.
- Look into organizations or groups for specific interests (travel, politics, history, chess, cruises, etc.)
- Try something new, such as ballroom dancing, Tai Chi, zip-lines or a new career.
- Volunteer at hospitals, schools, museums and organizations.
- Beware of anyone who refuses to meet family and friends or anyone who refuses to introduce his or her family and friends.
- Beware of claims of status, position or wealth until proven.
- Beware of anyone who wants to be contacted only at very specific times.
- Be cautious of someone who asks for money or financial assistance or of someone with cash flow problems, despite claims of wealth.
- Trust your instincts, and have fun.