Single, senior and searching
As today’s seniors live their lives in retirement many are single and back on the market, making the golden years even more dynamic.
Senior citizens are meeting the challenges of aging and ailments with a more liberated mindset. They’re keeping active, remaining social and meeting new people. And now studies show that more seniors are dating again after divorce or the death of a spouse, and that older couples are staying sexually charged later in life.
“In my experience, there are two kinds of seniors ” those who have continued to grow up, and those are the ones who have an active sex life well into their 80s,” says Reno psychologist Dr. John C. Friel. “And then there are those who have been gridlocked since the beginning and don’t have much of a sex life at all.”
Even after the laugh-lines and gray hairs have become commonplace, the desire to keep things playful in the bedroom remains for many retirees. The National Council on Aging reported that nearly 30 percent of men in their 80s still engage in some sort of sexual activity at least once a month.
“Men are never over it,” says 79-year-old Truckee resident Wally Pascoe. “They could be 95, and they’re still looking.”
For women, the numbers are a bit lower, but that could be attributed to the fact that women over 65 outnumber men by 15 percent, and by the time their 85th birthdays roll around, women dominate the arena 10 to 4.
The downside to such liberated loving is that heterosexuals over 50 are now the fastest-growing AIDS demographic in the nation, though numbers equate to fewer than 2,000 new cases a year, according to the Congress of California Seniors, a nonprofit education and advocacy organization.
Seniors, who are no longer concerned about preventing pregnancy, are one-sixth as likely to use condoms as younger generations, according to a Center for AIDS prevention study. And because AIDS-related symptoms of dementia, pneumonia and weight loss are relatively common in older age groups, physicians and patients often assume these symptoms to be natural and therefore don’t pursue testing.
In addition to women, what many older men are pursuing is the help of science. The little blue pill, Viagra, and a number of other medications benefit bedroom life and alleviate the aches and pains that come with aging.
“Viagra, better medical care and more awareness about sex means that more people over 65 are having more sex and enjoying it more,” Friel says. “People over 65 are a lot more active and are getting involved. They’re not just throwing in the towel after a spouse dies. It’s really nice to see.”
Is dating late in life really as carefree and uninhibited as it’s made out to be? Some singles say yes. But there’s a whole slew of eligible seniors who are just plain over it.
The dating game has changed a bit since the 1940s and ’50s. Many retirees are on a fixed income while others are still grieving the loss of their one true love.
“You get to a certain age and your desires totally change,” says Truckee senior Wally Pascoe. “Dating isn’t exciting, and you’re so set in your ways that you don’t want to bend much.”
But even those who choose to remain unattached still say that the desire for intimacy and companionship never subsides. It is, after all, part of the human condition.
“You learn to deal with being alone,” says Molly Kane, who is single at 60. “You never get over (the physicality). There are times when you think it would be nice to be watching a movie with somebody, but I just don’t dwell on it.”
For Kane and many other women, taking on a new relationships doesn’t seem to spark an interest the way it used to. But for men, the outlook is quite different, and according to Reno psychologist Dr. John C. Friel, men are much more likely to recommit after finding themselves single in their later years.
“They’re going to go out and find someone to make a home for them because they don’t know how to do it themselves,” Friel says. “Whereas women have more of a support system within each other and can find emotional warmth in non-sexual ways.
“It’s the age-old complaint among women ” after a while the men in their lives are just like another child.”
Lucy Greene ended her fourth marriage 14 years ago, but it took the Truckee resident more than a decade to put herself back on the singles market.
“I was afraid to get involved again. I was scared to have another relationship go down the drain,” she says.
But being alone didn’t feel quite right either, especially considering that Greene’s life is an active one. She hikes, goes to concerts and enjoys good company.
“Never would I get married again, but I never stop wanting,” Greene says. “I just want to make sure that it’s the right guy.”
Finding the right person can be nerve-wracking for older adults who are dead-set in their ways. They know what they want and what they don’t want, and filling that mold can lead to an arduous search.
Plus, in the Truckee Donner Senior Apartments, where Greene lives, there are 43 women to 17 men.
“I see other women dating and I think, ‘Oh! I still have a chance!'” Greene says. “But whatever happens happens, and I’m happy with the way I live.”
She’s nearly blind, he’s dealing with Alzheimer’s. Together, they make the perfect couple.
Carol DeLaRosa, 57, and Danny Brown, 63, started dating shortly after they were named king and queen at the Truckee Senior (citizens) Prom. That was more than two years ago and the Truckee residents have been inseparable since.
“We see each other every day and oh, I just love Danny so much,” DeLaRosa says. “I wish I had found him years ago, but someday we’ll be in heaven together.”
Both entered back into the dating pool years after separating from their spouses, and while neither DeLaRosa nor Brown was actively searching for a new mate, they both say that once they connected, they knew it was meant to be.
“It just came together and locked, just like that,” says Brown, interlocking his weathered fingers and squeezing them tight. “We look out for each other. Without her, I couldn’t do it.”
Because Brown is often forgetful, DeLaRosa keeps him on track, and he gives her the royal treatment that women of all ages covet.
“I say prayers for Danny every morning and every night,” DeLaRosa says. “He is just so sweet to me; never’s said a mean thing to me in his life. I just love him.”
You spend your entire adult life caring for someone else ” a spouse, a child, perhaps a parent. So when you finally find yourself single again, is more commitment really what you want?
“You have to learn how to take care of yourself,” says Truckee resident Molly Kane, 60. “I can do any bloody thing I want.”
Divorced for seven years, Kane said she’s not all that interested in finding someone new. She’s active, has lots of friends and is enjoying her independence.
“I’m perfectly happy with who I am. I’m happy with my life,” she says.
Plus, as Kane and the men around her age, a number of new variables present themselves.
“There’s the whole financial thing,” she says. “If I drop dead tomorrow, I want my money to go to my kids. Plus I don’t just want to get stuck taking care of someone.”
Instead of dating, Kane participates in Tahoe Singles, a group for like-minded seniors who share interests such as skiing, hiking and boating. There isn’t any pressure to date within the group, so it serves as a great way to make friendly platonic relationships.
“I’ve met a number of women, and it’s like they have to have a man in their life to feel complete,” Kane says. “But I’m happy and I feel like I have a great life.”