By John Blankenship
It’s the dating game revisited. Picture this: An attractive woman in her late 50s sits in the living room, within reach of the telephone, wondering if he’s ever going to call.
A handsome elderly gentleman stands with the receiver in his hand, heart pumping, palms sweating, trying to decide what he’ll say if she turns him down.
And it’s probably repeated a million times every day of the year — from teenagers to adults in their 30s.
But what many Americans probably don’t realize is that romance is not limited to the young only — more and more senior citizens are delving into the mix.
This is really a new age romance.
Elderly divorces and widowhood mean increasing numbers of people are rejoining the singles ranks in the later stages of life.
Some folks fit the “new romance” picture perfectly.
Two years ago Annie tied the knot with husband Robert.
Her age: 70.
After her first husband died 10 years ago, Annie spent the next nine years a widow.
She never dated, never looked to fill the void left by the loss of a loving companion.
That is, until she met Robert, a retired businessman.
“I met Robert and he swept me off my feet,” the woman says shyly. “He asked me to marry him and I did.”
The couple met through their friends. Annie tells the love story this way: “He invited me out to dinner and I accepted. We started dating and I married him. It was that simple.”
Annie adds, “There’s lots of fish in the sea, but you wouldn’t know if you aren’t fishing.”
Annie and Robert could serve as a microcosm of the big picture nationwide.
While the divorce rate among senior citizens (age 65 and over) is the lowest of all adult age groups, an increasing number of older people are getting divorced now.
National Center for Health Statistics figures for the past two decades indicate that about 25,000 men and women over the age of 65 get divorced each year.
Where do this country’s more than 13 million over-65 singles go to connect?
And do they have to relive those first-date agonies?
Increasingly the answer to the second question is “No.”
As to the first, a number of area churches and other service groups regularly run events geared to senior citizens but few are specifically aimed at singles.
Other single senior citizens are able to connect with one another in a variety of ways: social events, supermarkets, dances, cruises, spas, dinner parties, blind dates, bus tours and through personal introductions by mutual friends.
And yes, even the Internet.
It appears that the myths, stereotypes and stigmas about older people dating are changing rapidly in today’s world.
“There are a number of wonderful, fascinating, intelligent people who have been widowed or who have had the courage to leave a relationship,” one local minister explained. “There are older single women and men out there.”
Indeed there are.
But older single women outnumber elderly men to such an extent (10.4 million to 2.7 million on average for any given year) that it prompted one Daniels woman to remark: “Over-60 single men are either already taken, dating younger women or dead.”
Research indicates that she isn’t far off the mark. Among the findings: Older men have a wider field to select from and thus are more in demand, both by women their own age and younger.
Older men appear to have more difficulty adjusting to being alone and caring for themselves. Women seem to have more support from their families and friends and find it easier to network.
Even so, many senior citizens apparently think it’s never too late to begin a new relationship — especially if the person of the opposite sex is a caring, energetic, interesting companion.
Annie and her new spouse are the beneficiaries of the longevity revolution that is rewriting family scripts all over the country. With life expectancy heading toward 80 years — and a healthier outlook for those who reach 80 — late-life marriages may one day become the normal milestone for many Americans.
Of the more than 2 million marriages that take place every year, about 250,000 men and women tying the knot are over 50. In remarriages, more than a quarter of people are over 50.
“I had a great-aunt who re-married when she was 85,” Annie said. “She lived her remaining years the happiest of her life. It’s never too late.”
Top o’ the morning!
— Blankenship is a reporter for The Register-Herald. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org