What It’s Like To Date After Middle Age by F. Hill

What It’s Like To Date After Middle Age by F. Hill

For the record, I myself am NOT over the age of 50, but this article is mostly about folks age 60 and older.

(Link): What It’s Like To Date After Middle Age by F. Hill

Excerpts:

Newly single older people are finding a dating landscape vastly different from the one they knew in their 20s and 30s.

January 8, 2020

When Rhonda Lynn Way was in her 50s and on the dating scene for the first time since she was 21, she had no idea where to start.

Her marriage of 33 years had recently ended, and she didn’t know any single men her age in Longview, Texas, where she lives.

She tried to use dating apps, but the experience felt bizarre and daunting. “You’re thrust out into this cyberworld after the refuge of being in a marriage that—even if it wasn’t wonderful—was the norm. And it’s so difficult,” she told me.

Way is now 63 and still single. She’s in good company: (Link): More than one-third of Baby Boomers aren’t currently married.

Throughout their adult life, their generation has had (Link): higher rates of separation and divorce, and (Link): lower rates of marriage in the first place, than the generations that preceded them.

And as people are living longer, the divorce rate for those 50 or older is (Link): rising. But that longer lifespan also means that older adults, more than ever before, have years ahead of them to spark new relationships.

“Some people [in previous cohorts] might not have thought about repartnering,” notes Linda Waite, a sociologist at the University of Chicago. “But they weren’t going to live to 95.”

Getting back out there can be difficult, though. Wendy McNeil, a 64-year-old divorcée who works in fundraising, told me that she misses the old kind of dating, when she’d happen upon cute strangers in public places or get paired up by friends and colleagues.

“I went on so many blind dates,” she said, reminiscing about her 20s and 30s. “So many wonderful dates.” She met her former husband when she went to brunch by herself and saw him reading a newspaper; she asked whether she could share it. Now her friends don’t seem to have anyone to recommend for her, and she senses that it’s no longer acceptable to approach strangers.

The only way she can seem to find a date is through an app, but even then, McNeil told me, dating online later in life, and as a black woman, has been terrible. “There aren’t that many black men in my age group that are available,” she explained.

“And men who aren’t people of color are not that attracted to black women.” She recently stopped using one dating site for this reason. “They were sending me all white men,” she said.

….He [Al Rosen] and others I talked with were tired of the whole process—of putting themselves out there again and again, just to find that most people are not a match. (For what it’s worth, according to survey data, people of all ages seem to (Link): agree that online dating leaves a lot to be desired.)

…Even with that assistance [dating apps and dating sites], though, many older Baby Boomers aren’t going on many dates.

…Indeed, the people I spoke with noted that finding someone with whom you’re compatible can be more difficult at their age.

Over the years, they told me, they’ve become more “picky,” less willing—or less able—to bend themselves to fit with someone else, as if they’ve already hardened into their permanent selves.

Their schedules, habits, and likes and dislikes have all been set for so long. “If you meet in your 20s, you mold yourselves and form together,” said Amy Alexander, a 54-year-old college-admissions coach. “At this age, there’s so much life stuff that’s happened, good and bad. It’s hard to meld with someone.”

Finding a good match can be particularly hard for straight older women, who outnumber their male counterparts.

Women tend to live (and stay healthier) longer, and they also tend to wind up with older men; the older they get, the smaller and older their pool of potential partners grows.

“About half of men will go on to repartner,” Susan Brown, a sociologist at Bowling Green State University, told me. “For women, it’s smaller—a quarter at best.”

(And divorced men and women ages 50 or older, Brown said, are more likely than widows to form new relationships, while those who never married are the least likely to settle down with someone later on.)

One possible explanation for this gender disparity is that men rely more on their partners—not just when it comes to cooking and housework, but also for emotional and social support.

Women are (Link): more likely to have their own friends to lean on, and they may not be eager to take care of another man. “For many women, it’s the first time in their life they’ve had independence—they might own a home or have a pension, or something they live off every week,” Malta told me. “They don’t want to share that.”

…For reasons like this [declining health] and others, a (Link): growing number of older people are “living apart together,” meaning they’re in a relationship but don’t share a home.

Those relationships, whether casual or serious, typically involve sex.

Some researchers have found evidence of a loss of libido in older age, especially among women, but other researchers I interviewed disputed that.

Meredith Kazer, a professor of nursing at Fairfield University who’s studied sexuality among older people, told me that only if and when cognitive impairment makes true consent impossible should someone stop having sex.

In fact, the annual “Singles in America” survey, commissioned by the dating site Match.com, has shown that people report having the (Link): best sex of their lives in their 60s—they’ve had decades to figure out what they like, and as Kazer pointed out, they often have more time on their hands.

Of course, there are physical challenges: Starting around age 50, erections are more difficult to sustain (and less hard), and take longer to regain after orgasm.

Natural vaginal lubrication dries up, the pelvic floor becomes prone to spasms, and the cervix thins out and becomes irritable.

Sex can be painful, or just embarrassing or frustrating.

And many of the medical conditions that are common in older adults, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease—or the medications used to treat them—get in the way as well, impacting libido, erectile function, or response to sexual stimulation.

But there are plenty of ways to get around those limitations, from Viagra to hormone-replacement therapies to lubricants.

And more than that, an assumption that older people will be incapable of sex because of erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness presumes a narrow definition of sex, limited to penetrative intercourse. “It becomes more about exploring each other’s bodies in other ways that they find more intimate,” Malta told me.

…And those I spoke with who were single were often happily so. Al Rosen, the sexagenarian with the dating-app flash cards, told me he was—for the first time ever—really enjoying spending time alone.

…So although lots of unmarried older people aren’t going on many dates, they aren’t all dissatisfied.

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