Navigating the deep waters of senior dating can be tricky, so LoveToKnow Seniors has called in an expert: Helen E. Fisher, PhD, biological anthropologist and a member of the Center for Human Evolutionary Studies in the anthropology department of Rutgers University.
An accomplished author and expert on human attraction, Dr. Fisher's work deals with many love and relationship topics, including:
- Why We Love: the Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love
- The First Sex: The Natural Talents of Women and How They Are Changing The World
- Anatomy of Love: The Natural History of Monogamy, Adultery, and Divorce
- The Sex Contract: The Evolution of Human Behavior
LoveToKnow Seniors asked Dr. Fisher for insight into the senior dating experience.
Senior Dating Interview with Dr. Helen Fisher
What do you find interesting about the subject of senior dating?
People of any age can feel intense romantic love. In my questionnaire study of the romantic element in some 800 Americans and Japanese, men and women, I found that those participants who were over age 45 expressed just as much romantic passion as did those who were under age 25. You can fall in love at any age, even in your 90s.
So senior dating is often a good deal like junior dating-full of excitement, angst, euphoria when it goes well, and despair when things fail. Perhaps the most interesting thing about senior dating is that now, people are living long enough to do it. Additionally, they aren't living with their children and grandchildren, so they have the opportunity to do it.
How has the dating scene changed in the past 50 years?
The world of dating and marriage has changed more in the past 50 years than in the past 5,000, due largely to the entry of women into the paid labor force.
Women are expressing more of their natural sexuality, experimenting with sex and love before marriage, living with a potential life partner, marrying later, and divorcing and remarrying.
In these respects, we are returning to a social life style that is very similar to life as it was in hunting and gathering societies, before people settled down on the farm and sex and marriage codes became much more rigid.
Senior Dating Advice
What advice do you have for seniors who want to start dating again after losing a long-term partner or spouse?
Your next true love will never find you if you stay at home or do the same old things. Try new things, go new places, meet new people, get some exercise, and don't discount potential partners until you have gotten to know them.
And when you do meet someone new, don't spend all your time with your "date" talking about your former spouse. That can be a real turn-off.
What misconceptions would you like to dispel about dating?
It's hard to know how to handle dating these days, because the rules are changing so fast that none of us know exactly what is the right way to handle various situations.
So I guess it would be good to realize that we are all in the same boat. Some people are under the misconception that we know what we are doing.
I think there is also a misconception that older people are not interested in sex. Some 16 percent of people over 65 have sex regularly. Many more would if they had the right partner.
Are there any senior dating traditions that have changed over the years, things that may have been the status quo in a senior's younger days, but are different now?
As I mentioned above, so many of the rules have changed that we need to improvise as we go along. I would say that people of every age are living in a world of "it depends."
Do seniors need to be more open about sexual expectations than they may have been before?
I don't see seniors as very different from the rest of us. I think at any age it is wise, and often difficult, to be open about sexual expectations.
Are seniors having luck with online dating?
I helped to design the new dating/relationship site, Chemistry.com and we do have older people on the site. But, alas, most online dating sites attract a younger membership.
Do you have any additional senior dating suggestions?
Seniors might try the "personals" in newspapers that they admire, such as the New York Review of Books, and the Observer (in New York), or other periodicals that attract the kind of people they want to meet.
~Tracey L. Kelley