Love Over 50: Changing Attitudes, New Joys
Julia Burke | Jan 30, 2012, midnight
The idea of entering the dating world over age 50 might seem scary, but quite honestly, there’s never been a better time. Experts and senior citizens themselves agree that shifting social norms, increased social opportunities and better health care have all made life a happier and easier place for senior singles, and that’s especially true for those seeking new love. While challenges like health issues, finances, the practicalities of meeting people and blending families are certainly present, they’re by no means insurmountable — and the rewards of experiencing romance as a self-confident, independent and mature adult can’t be understated.
“I think your value system is certainly clear and in place,” says Rivona Levine, who began dating her husband George nearly 10 years ago, after the death of her first husband. “You know what characteristics you value and what you don’t value. I think you know yourself better and know what you’re interested in.
“You have a sense of knowing yourself, of confidence in yourself. It comes after a lot of years of living. When you’re a senior citizen you’ve gone through relationships of all kinds — that is, if you’ve exposed yourself and haven’t been provincial.”
How to Get Involved, and Why
Of course, getting back onto the dating scene as an older adult isn’t always easy. Licensed psychotherapist Tim Maggio explains, “A big issue is just trying to meet someone; making the connection can be a huge problem. At this stage in life there’s a risk of hooking up with someone who’s got a lot of baggage.”
Fortunately, attitudes about dating later in life are changing for the better. “There’s still ageism and the idea that people shouldn’t be dating after 50, but on the other hand more and more people are looking for a relationship so it does seem that things are looking up,” says Elayne Rapping, former professor of American studies at the University at Buffalo and author of several books on popular culture and social issues. “When you get older, no one wants to be alone.”
Rapping says she’s observed that factors such as improved health care for seniors and the trend of retiring later — continuing to work means not only financial independence but continued mental stimulation and motivation to be social and active — are facilitating a world more friendly to romance at all ages.
In addition to the workplace, there are multiple social settings ripe for making connections. Rapping suggests seniors start by looking to meet people “through family and friends or through church or synagogue [or social events for the nonreligious]. What you want is to find some decent, reliable person and maybe the best way to do that is through social connections.”
And meeting like-minded people is easier than ever now that more seniors than ever are going online: According to the Senior Citizen Journal, a study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project revealed that social networking use among Internet users ages 50 to 64 grew by 88 percent — from 25 percent to 47 percent — between 2009 and 2010.