This article appeared in the June 25, 2010 Jewish Advocate.
Dating after 65 – follow your head, and your heart
By Susie Davidson
Special to the Advocate
All you need is love - and maybe a little mazel, and a lot of determination. While some are simply at the right place at the right time, or know the right people, others spend a fortune on dating websites, invest too many hours meeting “non-beshearts,” and suffer emotional angst, long periods of singledom, and terrible dating experiences, before finally meeting their ideal match – or not. The potential pot of gold, however, is worth all of that and more. The benefits of having companionship, someone who cares, a confidante, a travel partner, and heck, someone to show off – never diminish.
According to extensive research and interviews with post-65 daters, it appears that not much of the challenges or the benefits change for singles of a certain age. And there are even less options. Still, it can happen, and it does. People of retirement age still meet, serendipitously or through effort. Their relationships are just as enjoyable, possibly more so, for various reasons. But given human nature, mercurial and immutable throughout one’s lifetimes, the messy psychology still exists.
Older daters have many challenges from the start, and for Bostonians, there are geographical hurdles as well. According to the 2006 American Community Survey of the US Census Bureau, there are 1,620 more single women than men in general. In fact, many cities along the Eastern half of the US have an overabundance of single women, except Florida. And in Greater New York, where one would think possibilities are endless, single women outnumber single men by more than 210,000. It’s not much better in Philadelphia and greater Washington, D.C., where single women outnumber single men by 50,000. There are lots more single men in Texas and out West (in LA, Long Beach and Santa Ana, there are 89,459 more single men than women). A quick search of JewishBoston.com events for 65+ turned up four, which as it turned out, cost $65 to participate in – thus, there were none specifically for this age group. And a simple search for "Singles" turned up events in three categories: Age 18-22, 22-30, and 30-40.
But post-65 singles need not despair. "Finding love after 65 can be a challenge, but it can be also a romantic voyage with the right attitude,” says Alice Solomon, a former Mrs. Massachusetts and Boston native living in Florida who is a columnist, radio host and the author of two books on older dating, including “Find the Love of Your Life After 50!” Focus on your approach and be adaptable, she advised the Advocate. “It means getting out there to meet new people, using the internet to broaden your choices, being adaptable in order to be compatible, and being realistic, not a dreamer."
And the preponderance of divorcees as well as widowers certainly is realistic. The Gores’ recent separation has awakened perception that in our modern world, with people living longer lives, there is no reason not to seek a more compatible partner when one’s union has ended. But first, the perception of aging should also be changed. In Betty Friedan’s 1993 book “The Fountain of Age,” she states that it is time to look at age on its own terms. “It is time we start searching for the 'fountain of age', time that we stop denying our growing older and look at the actuality of our own experience, and that of other women and men who have gone beyond denial to a new place in their 60s, 70s, 80s,” she wrote. “It is time to…put names on...values and strengths as they are actually experienced,” she continued, adding that she herself had expected vitally aging people to be “exceptional,” but when she looked for “biological, psychological and sociological evidence of emergent modalities in the later years of life other than simulation of or decline from youth, I found, even in the research that posed questions about ‘them’ instead of ‘us,’ that such evidence did exist."
So besides moving and changing perceptions and actions, what else can an older single do to increase his/her odds of finding their later-in-life mate? Try online dating, even checking out Facebook for single former or first loves. Go to lots of events, and do ask your friends to fix you up, because it is probably best to be introduced. Lillian Mamon of the JCC’s Senior Adult Services and the JCC Travel Club never misses a good shidduch when she sees one. “People have met on trips,” she said. “X” and “Y” met on one of them. “I put them together on the bus because they both came alone,” she said. The two hit it off, and have been together for 5 years. He sold his house, and moved to her apartment complex. “They share a wonderful life, as ‘X’ is into a lot of things such as time shares and traveling,” said Mamon. “They still come on JCC trips, and ‘Y’ is living a life that he never anticipated,” she said.
The two were in their 70s when they met, and he is actually younger than she. “She is in her low eighties at this point, but very active - she still plays tennis,” said Mamon. “His wife had recently died, and I understand was much different than ‘Y’ - she was kind of a couch potato.” “Y” had been divorced, and Mamon suspects it was because her husband could not keep up with her.
Some are just lucky. A prominent Newton physician who lost his wife three years ago decided the following year to attend a meeting about an assessment at his 99-unit building in Chestnut Hill. “It was an oddity,” he recalled. “I spoke, and she spoke, and there was chemistry between us.” Her husband was an allergist who had passed away 12 years ago, and they had never known one another beforehand. “We did have a mutual friend who was having a party at his house shortly after the meeting,” he continued, “and we were both invited. I knew she was going, so I called her to ask about going together.” They’ve been an item ever since, socializing with friends and sharing each others' families and interests. “I run a political discussion group for seniors and she now attends,” he said.
Robert, a consultant living in Newton, lost his wife several years ago when he was in his mid 60s. He tried JDate, and enjoyed it. “I believe that people who complain about online dating simply expect too much from it,” he said. “They expect magic." In fact, many of the women he met complained, but he still thought it was a good system. “It was a way to meet people,” he said, noting that he preferred to meet them face to face rather than talk on the phone. “It's inevitable that you'll meet a number of people you aren't interested in, but I think it helped me,” he said. He met several women that I dated for a while, but five years ago, he was fixed up by a friend, and has been in a “very good relationship” since. They maintain their separate homes, but go to family events, travel, and regularly go out to dinner and concerts.
Jamie Stolper, President of ShalomBoston.com, related a lucky incident for a Newton man, who was the lawyer for a woman’s family for many years. The two couples were close, and when their respective spouses died, the man and the woman just naturally gravitated to each other. “They didn’t meet through friends or a dating service or anything like that,” said Stolper. They were in their 70s when they got married.
Tom Blake writes a column called "Single Again" for The Orange County Register in Southern California, is a question-and-answer columnist for Yahoo! Personals, has been on NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, and speaks at AARP conventions. He met Greta, his partner of 8 years, in his deli. She ordered fresh carrot juice and he simply asked her to dinner. “Romance after 50 bloomed before the first bite,” he wrote in his “Finding Love After 50” newsletter.
General dating precautions still apply for the post-65 set. Solomon, a graduate of Wellesley College who wrote for the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham for many years and runs the www.gorgeousgrandma.com site. She advocates a “Gorgeous Grandma” style, a woman who has life experience and tremendous values. “When a Gorgeous Grandma, who is a dynamite package of self-esteem and confidence, enters the online dating world to find a loving companion with whom to share her years ahead,” she says, “she approaches the task with a totally different image and attitude than her younger counterparts.” Solomon outlines proper protocol for her readers. “GGs do not phone men or reply to their profiles…Let the man be the pursuer…A GG creates a delightfully short, breezy [online] profile and creates a winsome and upbeat screen name….she waits 24 hours before she answers a man’s first email,” and if a man doesn’t suggest getting together after a week or two, she drops the conversation.
Solomon’s GG doesn’t respond to crude messages, doesn’t reveal too much personal information, and gives only her cell, not her home number. “The secret to any GG's success is persistence, online and off,” she advocates. “Do try it!”