Ken and Helen are in a relationship. They consider themselves a couple, although the terms “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” feel a bit awkward to the pair of octogenarians.
The two 80-year-olds met over morning coffee in their senior living community and found they had a lot in common. Now they’re inseparable — well, at least until bedtime when they each retire to their own 2nd floor apartments.
It might come as a surprise to the younger-than-60 crowd, but among seniors, love is not dead—far from it. Dating in senior communities is becoming more and more common.
Back when baby boomers were young, 50 seemed downright ancient. When the Beatles sang about senior romance in ”When I’m Sixty-four,” many of their fans could barely imagine being alive at that age, much less in love. But like Paul McCartney, those boomers have aged. Now a whole decade older than 64, McCartney is not only alive and well, but he’s managed to get married twice after turning 60.
Dating might not come quite that easy to the average senior, but it doesn’t have to be hard either. So how are seniors finding romance in their golden years? Retirement housing can actually provide a great opportunity to meet the man or woman of your dreams. In particular, it seems that widowed gentlemen always seem to attract a crowd of interested grandmas.
Of course, the overall environment is a little different between each senior living community and that will surely have a bearing on romantic opportunities. Some sponsor a lot of events that bring people together. It could be as simple as morning coffee or a weekly happy hour where people have the chance to socialize in a relaxed setting.
Some senior communities have actually planned dating mixers for their residents. Waltonwood on University in Rochester Hills, MI, set up a speed dating event and invited other non-resident seniors from the area to join in. “It was successful, and we actually had a couple of connections from it last time that went really, really well,” says Interim Director Jeff Madak. He explained that the hope was for single seniors to come together for a night of fun to find friendship or romance.
AARP reports that as many as 45% of those over 65 are separated, divorced or widowed. And that creates a pretty big pool of dating options. If your community doesn’t go out of its way to promote dating, that still doesn’t mean you can’t find love. You just have to be willing to get involved. Sign up for community outings. Trips to restaurants, casinos and tourist sites are always good choices. How about on-site activities? Many places offer residents a wide array of options – from exercise to card games and tennis to hiking. If all else fails, there’s the grocery store. Whether you drive there yourself or take the community van, what silver-haired lady isn’t attracted to the grinning grandpa who rams her cart?
Just don’t choose activities with the sole goal of meeting a life partner. Get involved in the things that you enjoy doing – which would make any resulting relationship not only more enjoyable, but more real.
“We know that when you socialize, it actually slows down the degenerative effects of dementia and it slows down the depression that people go through, making the quality of life much better,” says Madak. So start out easy — open yourself to new friendships. And if you find love? Well, that’s just the icing on the (wedding) cake.