No matter your age, dating can be intimidating. However, it may seem even more stressful if you've been out of the dating scene for a long time. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help yourself get back out there and enjoy dating again.
Setting Boundaries for Your New Dating Life
It is normal to wonder if dating has changed dramatically, or if you'll remember how to date. The most important factor is that you should set your own rules.
Internationally Acclaimed Life Strategist Tanja Diamond says, "It's very important to set priorities first, and boundaries as a close second."
Don't worry about how others date, but focus on what you feel comfortable with. If your rule has always been that you don't kiss on the first date, then don't worry about whether it's "old school." Age should, at the very least, earn you the right to set some comfortable boundaries.
Here are some tips that many choose to go by when dating:
- Only date one person at a time, or be very upfront that you are dating others
- Only meet in public places until you know the other person well
- Don't rush to monogamy too soon
- Let your family know upfront that you are dating again so they won't be surprised
Where to Meet People
Finding people to date is not as difficult as you may think; there are a lot of places or ways to meet people.
Friends and Family
Your friends and family are a great source for introducing you to new people. They know about your personality and interests and can connect you with people who they know who might have things in common with you. Attending wedding, graduations, and other social gatherings that your acquaintances may have also brings you into contact with a wider number of people - some of them you may hit it off with.
Shared Interests or Hobbies
Another good way to meet people is through your activities and interests. You can meet someone at church, through political events, or other events. If you play a recreational sport, there may be someone at the park who you might find interesting. Think about your hobbies and what you like to do. Joining a club may also increase your exposure to potential dating partners.
Senior Dating Sites
Online dating is an option for people of all ages - including seniors - and there are a lot of sites that have been established to connect interested seniors. If you are not comfortable with computer use, you can take a computer class, get help at the library, or ask your family. You do have to be careful online but if you exhibit caution, you can have access to a wide variety of people. Online dating is a popular way for people of all ages to meet compatible mates.
In addition, April Masini, who writes the critically acclaimed Ask April advice column recommends online daters avoid sending photos of family members, as well as their address or phone number to someone they don't really know.
Offline Dating Services
Some seniors enjoy the structure of offline senior dating services where the matchmakers personally select people for you to meet. These services may also plan mixers or other social events that allow you to meet a variety of people at once. While these organizations charge for services and events, many individuals consider the process safe and efficient.
Other offline suggestions, Masini says, include the common areas of medical buildings, local farmers' markets or even at a local community college when auditing or taking a course on a subject of mutual interest.
What to Do on Dates
Dating should include activities you enjoy. Keep in mind that if you are not comfortable going out alone with someone, going in a group or double dating can take a lot of pressure off of the situation.
Senior couples have a wide range of options for dates. Seniors can do a hobby that both enjoy as a date. For example, if both like to golf, make a date out of the day and include lunch or dinner. A church picnic or going to an event or performance can also be fun as well. Other options include:
- Movies or concerts
- Museum or art gallery
- Going on a walk in the local park
- Taking dance lessons
- Wine tasting event.
Masini cautions against bringing a date to a family gathering unless you're seriously dating that person. "You'll send the wrong message to everyone," she says.
Dating Concerns for Seniors
There are many areas of concern seniors have when thinking about dating again. These fears might range from not being sure how the dating scene has changed to worries about how the family may react and how a potential marriage might affect pensions or social security.
Many widows receive a pension or other income from a deceased husband. Re-marriage can sometimes make you ineligible for this pension, and you may want to avoid dating so you can avoid getting more deeply involved with someone. Quite honestly, seniors do have to be smart about finances. The following tips will help you make a wise decision in this area:
- Contact the pension provider and ask for a written list of rules.
- Consult an attorney or retirement specialist to help explain your options.
- Consider if your social security will be reduced.
- Will your new, combined income be more or less than what you receive currently?
- What happens if your new husband dies before you?
Although it is important to gather all the facts, sometimes you have to follow your heart and work the finances out. Many senior citizens enjoy active, part-time jobs for this very reason.
Many older folks feel uncertain about sex with a new person. The question also arises as to whether one should have sex outside of marriage. Again, the rule is that you make the rules that best suit you. However, if you do choose to have intercourse, you should use protection. Age is not a preventative for sexually-transmitted diseases and you are never too old for safe sex.
Although some seniors do experience a reduction in sex drive, this is a topic that you may want to discuss with the person you are dating, or planning to marry. An honest discussion of expectations can prevent misunderstandings down the road.
According to Diamond, women should use a high-quality, water-based lubricant. She adds that if bladder leakage is an issue, make sure you have a water proof mattress pad and empty your bladder beforehand.
Toronto's Dr. Jessica O'Reilly also notes that many men require additional stimulation to achieve erection and orgasm.
One worry is whether grown children will accept someone new in their lives. This will depend upon the personality of the children and your new significant other. The best thing to do is to introduce the new man or woman in your life to your family and let them begin interacting. Daughters and sons can sometimes worry that the new man or woman is trying to replace a mother or father. Reassure the children that this is not the case.
Time will tell whether the family is going to mesh well. Although the kids' feelings should be considered, do remember that they no longer live at home. Your happiness is probably important to them, and if you express that this new person makes you happy, they are likely to learn to accept him or her in their lives.
Dr. O'Reilly puts it succinctly, "You're an adult. You have more life and relationship experience than most members of your family, so while you may welcome their input, you're the ultimate authority on your own love life."
Take a deep breath and enjoy the process of dating again. No matter your age, there are joys to be had on the dating scene. Be careful and take a chance - you might meet someone wonderful!