The Senior Relationship Revolution
If you’re of a certain age and hesitant to look for love, think again: Viagra, online dating and better health are on your side! It’s a great time to be older, single and looking for someone special.
nce upon a time, a marriage ending around the same time that the AARP card arrives in the mail would’ve likely meant facing one’s golden years alone. But the times, it seems, are rapidly changing. “These days, older daters have more options than ever,” says Dr. Helen Fisher, author of Why Him? Why Her? Finding Real Love by Understanding Your Personality Type and Chief Scientific Advisor
for Chemistry.com. “In fact, what’s going on is really a relationship revolution.”
|We are shedding our beliefs about who men and women are…|
This “relationship revolution” for older daters, Fisher explains, is the result of the convergence of two enormous social trends: the women’s liberation movement and advancements in medicine that are increasing both longevity and our quality of life. Women are now almost equal to men in terms of their economic power, which allows them to choose relationships based on their companionship needs rather than being driven into them out of economic necessity. With this important social and economic change, Fisher says, “we are shedding our beliefs about who men and women are — including the belief that women are less sexual than men.” Combine these evolving notions of gender with greater longevity and better quality of life in the older years, and the stage for a relationship revolution is set. More than ever, it’s possible for older daters to find and maintain relationships that are fulfilling to both men and women.
A number of trends are contributing to this quality increase in the romantic lives of older people. Here are just a few:
1. The role older people play is changing within their own families.
More older adults are living on their own rather than with their families and are not necessarily expected to stay at home knitting, baking cookies and taking care of the grandchildren. “A woman in her 40s may look at her mother in her 60s and think, ‘Go ahead and date,’” says Fisher. “Not only is acceptable for older men and women to date, their families often expect them to create new social and sexual lives for themselves after divorce or the death of a partner.”
2. Online dating sites, like Match.com, can provide seniors with a greater number of possible matches than ever before.
Twenty years ago, older singles would’ve had to rely on getting set up on dates, going to bars (which many people don’t enjoy) or meeting someone at church or in a group social setting. With such a small pool of possible partners to choose from, many seniors would often remain single — sometimes for the remainder of their lives — after the death of a partner or a divorce later in life. Today, the fastest-growing demographic on Match.com is comprised of singles aged 50 and over. In fact, approximately 20% of Match.com subscribers are in this category.
3. The popularity of Viagra is fostering sexual confidence among older men.
Fisher credits Viagra for improving the quality of many older couples’ sex lives. “Viagra is enhancing sexual relationships,” Fisher says, “and, therefore, also
enhancing excitement and attachment in relationships. If couples are having more sex, they are experiencing an increase in dopamine, oxytocin and vasopressin activity, which increase feelings of both romantic love and attachment.”
|All of this at ages most women have been told to be afraid of…|
Fisher addresses concerns that using Viagra might lead to infidelity and other relationship problems. “If the relationship is unstable, then yes, Viagra might destabilize it more. But it’s not an aphrodisiac. It doesn’t affect someone’s desire. It affects the ability to get an erection. A man with Viagra might have more confidence, but it’s doesn’t increase his sexual desire for other women. It’s not going to make him go out of the relationship.”
4. Medical advancements and a general focus on good health and fitness are helping to keep people sexually active and feeling good throughout their older years.
Hormone replacement therapy, estrogen creams that help alleviate the vaginal thinning and dryness associated with menopause, and hip replacements have all played a role in improving the sexual relationships of the older adult population. (Not to mention the fact that there’s a much greater chance that grandma is playing tennis instead of bridge these days.)
5. Not only are new relationship opportunities more available for older singles these days, many of them feel they have more to offer now than they did in their 20s and 30s.
In Prime: Adventures and Advice on Sex, Love and the Sensual Years, sociologist Dr. Pepper Schwartz writes: “I reached new sexual peaks after 55 that I would hate to have missed. I understand more about what I want and who I should be in a relationship with. I have had the deepest experiences of friendship and intimacy. All of this at ages most women have been told to be afraid of, ages that have been ignored or lampooned by books and movies, ages that common wisdom has pronounced as being sexless and loveless.”
So take heart, senior singles — it’s a great time to fall in love again!
Theo Pauline Nestor is the author of How to Sleep Alone in King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over and a regular contributor to Happen magazine.
Interested in taking Dr. Helen Fisher’s personality test? Visit Chemistry.com today!