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In Netflix’s hit comedy TV series Grace and Frankie, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, there is an episode about online dating where Grace is talked into setting up an online dating profile by her daughter. The episode highlights the funny predicaments older adults can find themselves in while dating and trying to find meaningful romantic relationships.
Over the last 50 years or so, women of +65 age and above have had to live alone more often than men. This percentage rose sharply from 1950-1990 before leveling off. Older men comparatively have seen an increase in living alone from the 1990s.
By the 1990s nearly 40% of the women +65 and above were living alone compared to only 15% of men of similar age. In 2014, this percentage stood at slightly over 30% for older women compared to nearly 20% of men aged +65 as living alone.
That is older folks living alone. What can they do then, to meet people for friendship, for dating and romance ? Hobbies, cultural activities, taking part in local community affairs and sports can help. But it is often not enough. Senior communities could be the answer if you are a single older adult looking to date.
Burdett Stilwel is the Marketing Director for at Somerby of Mobile, a senior living community in Alabama. She knows her community members well and explains that romantic interests exists between community members and says that people usually fall into either the ‘yes, I am interested’ category or the other ‘not interested, already done that, happy to be single’ category.
Romance and dating sites, meeting groups, couples forums and other similar sites teem with historical data about couple who first met during university or through work or family, even later via their children’s friends after a divorce, through children’s school activities and so on. But not much research has been done on romance and dating in senior living facilities and care centers.
Ben Hanowell, researcher at A Place for Mom, an assisted care center says that present policies do not lay emphasis on tracking how many of the community members find romance or even if they are trying to date with other members. It makes sense to try and find out if this is a primary concern for residents since over 90% of those who do move into the centre are single when they do.
Meanwhile, hearsay evidence clearly points to the burgeoning need to address proposing or at least facilitating the possibility of romance and dating for elder adults in senior communities and care centers. Stilwell recounts the story of two seniors who were born and brought up in the same community but who never met during their youth. They met and started dating at the senior community after moving in and have now been married for 5 years. For Stilwell stories like this are not that uncommon.
Tom Giuliana at the Meridian Senior Living in Florida is of the same mind. In his experience older adults meeting and finding romance at the centre is not a rare occurrence. He talks about couples who first meet at the community and start dating and often become inseparable and enjoy practicing similar hobbies and cultural activities together.
Senior communities and assisted care centers can be an unlikely but overlooked space where romance can blossom between older adults. Older adults who had otherwise limited themselves to solitary pursuits like reading and walking could suddenly find other group activities and social outings presented to them as leisure activities. In the end, friendships and mutual interests can develop into romantic attachments even if the elder adults themselves were not actively seeking to date or looking for a partner.
Older adults living communities offers a safe place for widows and widowers for finding another chance at love. It facilitates the meeting, makes the other person more accessible and easier to approach. The hassles involved in trying to meet new people when one is living alone does not apply here. The place they reside in brings them the opportunity to meet people. And members get to see others in a non-threatening, pressure free atmosphere before they decide to take the relationship up a notch.
Long term relationships are not always a top priority for those members seeking romance. Men often enjoy the added advantage of being more in demand simply because there are less number of men to women in most communities.
Women make up the majority in most senior communities and assisted living centers. For women aged 65 to 70, there are twice as many women as men and the gap just keeps getting wider for those who are older. Women who are 90 and above may make up to nearly two-thirds of those members in that age bracket.
There is certainly a need to address the romance factor says Stilwell. She explains that Valentine’s dances, even when it is ‘no partner needed’ still bestows a lot of attention on the men present and women usually ask ‘Where are all the men? ‘ When they move in. And each time a new older single man moves into the community it can garner much attention from the single women.
By the way, sexual educational classes are often conducted at the special request of community members. In other words, older adults looking for romance are just like anyone else. They want someone special, someone to hang out with, have fun times with, sex included.
Looks like when it comes to romance, nothing ever changes, regardless of age.
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