Dating at Your Age? Yes!

Dating at Your Age? Yes!

By Lara Cohen, M.A.

Do you feel like your ship has sailed and you missed your chance to find a good partner? It is hard to date in older age. The dating pool is smaller and many older adults worry that they lack the sexual prowess, financial means, or large social networks to make dating possible.

Yet, of the 46 million older adults in the United States, an estimated 6.5 million of them are single and dating. Surprised? Although dating in later life presents certain challenges, it is not by any means out of the question, even if you’re well past the age of homecoming dances and proms.

Instead of pressuring yourself to find “the one,” view dating as an opportunity to have some fun. Focus on your interests rather than dating per se. For example, take classes at PILLAR (www.pillarinstitute.org) or the Senior Center or join a local Meetup group (www.meetup.com). Baby boomers who did not grow up in the era of Match.com and Tinder may feel most comfortable meeting people through friends, social activities, or religious organizations.

If you plan to pursue online dating, there are a number of benefits and a few things you can do to optimize your chance of success. Online dating has many advantages. You may find that you have greater control over the pacing and length of the relationship, as well as greater ease ending the relationship, if need be, using the online platform. By crafting a profile that describes your particular interests and reflects your sense of humor and fun, you can find potential partners who share some of your interests and values. You no longer have to settle for someone who is only an okay match but lives locally. Those who do try online dating may be pleased to know that older adults often are willing to travel farther than younger men and women to meet someone with whom they resonated online.

Now that you are dating you may find that some things are different than when you dated in your younger years. Looks and sexual prowess take a back seat to connection as we age; older adults tend to value intimacy and communication above all. When dating it is important to communicate about expectations at the outset.

Mature daters generally are more selective and feel less pressured to make a mismatched partnership work. Only about one-third of older adults desire marriage and a shared residence. Some women may be reluctant to enter into a new relationship if they consider themselves “retired” from domestic duties or if they fear that marriage may oblige them to become a caregiver in the future. Those who value their independence may choose not to date at all and may be just as happy or happier with the social support of friends and family.  Studies show that women have the same level of well-being regardless of their relationship status, while married men seem to fare better than bachelors.

You may want an active sex life yet worry that you are not as attractive or sexually able as you once were.  Interest in sex remains as we age. If intercourse is challenging due to age-related physical changes, cuddling and kissing can fulfill the need for physical closeness. In whatever form they take, sexually satisfying relationships are possible for many couples throughout their lives.

Some challenges stay the same when dating. It can be easy to get swept up in the new relationship; you may run the risk of neglecting your friendships and family. It can be a new and unique challenge to maintain relationships with your adult children. Older adult men are most likely to become distant from their children after newly dating. One key to success is to have an open conversation with your adult children about your reasons for dating again, while emphasizing your need to maintain close ties and contact with them. You could schedule regular phone calls and lunch dates with your children, and encourage open dialogue about any concerns they have about your new dating life.  Introduce them to your new partner early on in the relationship. By regularly spending time together and openly communicating you can keep your adult children close throughout your dating life.

You may feel intimidated by dating, and that is understandable. If you think of dating as a fun opportunity to meet new people, however, you can limit your emotional investment until you find someone with whom you really click or perhaps decide that dating is not for you.  The new year has just begun. If you’re asking yourself whether dating is the right thing to do at your age, the answer may just be “yes”!

Lara Cohen, M.A., is a University of Denver clinical psychology doctoral student and trainee at the UCCS Aging Center. For more information, contact Lara at lara.cohen@du.edu or call the Aging Center at (719) 255-8002.

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