I could tell right away that the older couple sitting next to me at the bar was dating. As the man was rubbing the woman’s back, she was looking at pictures on his phone, “oohing” and “ahhing” over how cute his grandkids were. Knowing I’d been assigned this story, I took a chance on asking if they were in a new relationship.
“Excuse me,” I asked. “Are you on a date?”
The woman turned to me with a big grin and answered, “Yes, we are!”
She went on to tell me that they had met 40 years ago, but both had since married different people – twice. Now that they were both divorced at 66 years old, it seemed like the perfect time to get together.
“I’ve been following him on social media,” she said. “Once I saw that he was single, I thought, ‘Why not give it a shot?’ So I asked him out and we’ve been having a great time together!”
That woman I met last week seemed ready for the adventure of new love, but it can be really scary for some seniors. After the loss of a spouse, a marriage gone sour or just bad luck in the dating scene, many older adults throw in the towel on finding a companion later in life. But Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and Chief Scientific Officer at Match.com, claims there are good reasons to continue searching for love.
“Romantic love drives up the dopamine system in the brain and with that you get energy, focus, motivation, ecstasy, and optimism,” said Fisher in an interview with CBS news.
Becoming involved in a relationship can also be beneficial to the body. A 2017 newsletter published by the National Institutes of Health suggests strong social ties (like those formed in dating and romantic relationships) may help reduce stress and heart health-related issues.
Despite how good new love can make them feel, some seniors are apprehensive to get back into the dating scene – particularly if they have adult children. Introducing someone new to the family can be awkward, as Psychoanalyst Polly Young-Eisendrath recently explained to AARP.
“The difficult, or bad news side, is that you already have a tribe, you have a family, you have children,” she said. “Be aware that you need to cultivate this relationship freshly. Show up with each other’s tribe, get to know each other’s history and children.”
That advice went well for Joe O’Connell and Sharon Laux, who got married at 63. After each of them had been married twice before, neither of them had a third wedding on their radar. Joe had two grown daughters that he loved to spend time with, and Sharon was busy at work, but during a business meeting, they began talking and discovered they had a lot in common. They shared mutual friends, their parents knew each other and they enjoyed doing similar things—spending time together just felt natural. After a while, Joe chose to introduce Sharon to his kids and since they saw how happy she made their dad, they welcomed her into the family. Six years later, they tied the knot.
“It just feels natural,” said Sharon. “His daughters’ kids – my grandchildren – are like the children I never had.”
How seniors can date safely
While there are many benefits to jumping back into the dating scene, it’s important for seniors to be aware of the risks of seeing people they don’t know well. Meeting up with an old love interest or a co-worker is usually okay, but going out with someone from a dating site or a person they met at a bar can be scary. It’s always best for seniors to follow this safety checklist to make sure the date goes safely.
- Tell a family member when and where they’re going on a date. If possible, have them share their location on a smartphone app.
- Always meet in public. Especially with someone new, it can be dangerous to accept a ride or go into their home. It’s always safest to spend time in a public place while getting to know each other.
- Choose a daytime date. In general, meeting for lunch is easier for seniors to be aware of their surroundings.
- Check in with family during and after the date. Remind them how they used to wait up after your dates. They’ll probably remember that knowing you were safe was a big reason they stayed up, but that they also were just curious to see how it went!
Ready to help your loved one start dating again?
If you think the senior in your life could use a companion, check out our list of the top dating sites for seniors. It may be scary at their age, but remind them that there’s no timeline for true love.