Old couple holding hands

For most of us, senior dating is no longer a taboo. Love is not something we ever stop seeking, and this often means going on first dates well into our 80s and 90s. But when it comes to senior dating, there are still stereotypes to break and fundamentals to explore. So what does senior dating look like in the 21st century?

When it comes to love, we often involuntarily think of young couples holding hands, lost in their own world. If we do think of older people and love, we see partners for life, two people having spent so much time together that they’re practically intertwined.

What we don’t really think of – and what is the reality nonetheless – are seniors actively participating in the dating scene. And while this scene does differ from our younger dating days in some aspects, love is still love, even above your 70s!

Senior dating, like dating in your 20s or 30s, has its own processes and niceties – often unbeknownst to anyone who isn’t part of it. Dating in general seems to be governed by unspoken rules – like who should be paying the bill, when is it appropriate to kiss your date, what you should or shouldn’t be talking about.

While this is even more so as we get older, the rules change, and those who last dated in their younger years but are now back in the field might find it difficult to catch up. But what are these unwritten rules, and how do they influence senior dating?

What to watch out for in senior dating

Joyce Basset is 86 and she is a Virtual Senior Centre client. As we sit down to talk, she recounts memories of a high school friend, Jim, who – after becoming widowed many years later – contacted her again. While the two were never together in high school and that didn’t change 60 years on either, Joyce recounts the memories they shared during their school years and those they made together again. In the seven years from their reunion to Jim’s unfortunate seizure in 2015, they spent quite a bit of time travelling and enjoying life together.

Commitment is a different story after your 70s

When asked why she hasn’t given him a chance at being more than just her friend after many, many years, she is very clear.

“Those days were very different to nowadays. Dating later in life is really common – I can name four friends who’ve got rings given to them recently – but for the most part there’s no intention of getting married. I’m happy to go out, but I don’t want to be serious.”

Just like younger dating, there are a number of reasons why senior dating has its drawbacks – and they’re completely different to what younger couples would experience. Commitment is certainly one of them – depending on whether someone is entering the dating scene after their spouse has passed away or whether simply never having been married, commitment can seem daunting or even unnecessary.

Joyce has her eyes set on remaining independent, even after two marriages.

“Married or not married, I still live MY life. If I wanted to go and see something in, say Sydney, too bad if they didn’t want to go, I went anyway.”

Finances might be a reason for uncommitted senior relationships

Part of the lack of commitment evident in most older relationships is a financial aspect. As Joyce explains, many of her friends with new partners will probably never live together.

“They won’t grow old together because they still have their own homes. It can’t work if you want to retain your own independence – and your own pension.”

While elderly people going on first dates might not have to worry about whether their date could be a potential life partner or the mother/father of their children, they now have to keep other things in mind – like finances. Pension is calculated on the basis of whether someone is single or in a committed relationship, living together. For those single seniors who rely on the pension, moving in with a new partner might not work out very well financially. According to Joyce, this is something commonly stopping people of her age from moving in with their new partners. As she puts it, this is definitely a major problem.

Adult children don’t always agree with their parent’s dating choices

Another one she can think of are adult children. Seniors finding love – or at least a new companion – often don’t have the support of younger family members. Adult children or grandchildren might only want the best for their elders, but this doesn’t always reflect in their actions.

As Joyce puts it, “there’s a lot of baggage that comes with senior relationships.” And we understand.

But if you are the child or grandchild of someone who is getting into a new relationship, it’s important to remember that your loved one is still his or her own person – they get to choose with whom or in what form they spend their time.
Joyce Bassett in her living room

So how exactly does senior dating benefit your parent or grandparent?

As we have mentioned before, we never stop looking for love. But why is that? What love gives us differs from person to person, but the universal ideas are the same: safety, a sense of belonging, appreciation, comfort, joy, and a genuine connection are some of the things we hope to get from a loved one. It’s almost as if we need these to sustain us, and why should that stop after we hit a certain age?

Companionship leads to happy lives for seniors

The number one reason for getting back into the dating scene as a senior is the benefits of companionship. Life is best shared, and this becomes increasingly true after kids and grandkids have flown out of the nest long ago. Loneliness is often an unwelcome but very persistent companion to seniors – and one way to combat that is to dust off the old dancing shoes and go out and find someone who loves salsa just as much as you do.

Your loved one having a new person to share passions and hobbies with doesn’t necessarily mean the end of ‘grandma’ or ‘grandpa’ as you know it – they will always be the same person, and meeting a new companion might actually influence them in a positive way.

Just as it was in the case of Joyce – as she says, Jim was never a man of adventure, hence why they didn’t end up marrying each other. But after his wife’s death, Joyce and Jim enjoyed many adventures together as friends; and these took them to places where Jim would’ve never gone on his own. With Joyce’s positive influence on his life, they travelled all around Australia, seeing and doing new things. After all, loneliness is best fought by laughing and sharing life together.

Intimacy is proved to benefit us physically, mentally, and emotionally

There is no way around it in this day and age – older people don’t stop enjoying intimacy and sexual relationships. Intimacy, regardless of the degree to which we enjoy it, has proven benefits to our lives. According to research, “getting intimate on a regular basis boosts your immune system. Your risk for heart disease and prostate cancer decreases. If that isn’t reason enough, it’s been proven that frequently hugging people you love can lower your blood pressure almost as well as prescription medication. What’s more, healthy sexual relationships can prolong your life up to 8 years.”

While as a child or grandchild you might find it hard to view your loved one in this light, we encourage you to try. Intimate relationships can help keep someone fit physically, mentally, as well as emotionally. And a happy, healthy granny is the best granny! If the above isn’t reason enough to support your loved one’s dating choices, we don’t know what is! 

Sharing is caring – and sometimes, sharing is also surviving

There are just some things only people who have gone through similar life experiences can understand. This can include the passing of a spouse or other family matters from a senior’s point of view that can only be truly appreciated by someone else in similar shoes.

Widowed seniors often come together to help each other grieve and learn to live with and overcome that grief. While the support of other loved ones certainly helps, it can benefit seniors to discuss these issues with others coming from the same background. Sharing grief (or joy, or anxiety, or contentment, etc.) can strengthen a bond and help anyone overcome big emotional obstacles in life.

Senior dating certainly has its unique challenges – but so does it have its own rewards! As a senior entering the dating scene, it’s good to know what you’re up against so you can protect yourself financially and emotionally. As with anything else in life, communication is key. Talking to your loved ones about your choice is also a great idea – your grandchildren might just have the best tips for your first date! Not just that, but make sure you also talk to your new partner, as this helps set the foundations of the relationship. Agree on what each of you would like from the relationship, but most importantly of all, enjoy!

Are you in a happy relationship but still not sure what else you’d want from life? Get inspired by others in your shoes. Read on to find out how to find purpose in later life.

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