To honor the month most focused on matters of the heart, we’re exploring the world of dating and love among seniors.
Even though it’s more and more common that the seniors in our lives choose to date, that reality often has a unique set of concerns attached to it. Why? Because it is a newer aspect of our culture, so there is still a lot of learning going on about the challenges that may arise within the relationship and also among existing relationships that could support that new romance.
Today, we’ll look at three of the common concerns and provide a few tips for handling those concerns.
The Relationship May Create Tension with Adult Children
There are a lot of reasons why adult children may resist the idea of their senior parents or loved ones dating: They may have trouble with the thought of their parent being in a relationship with someone other than their mother or father. They may be concerned for the safety of their parent or for their parent’s financial security. They may be worried that the relationship will be like past relationships that were abusive. They may want to protect their parent from more heartbreak.
Tip: Talk about it. Seniors and their adult children need to have an understanding of where each other is coming from and the best way to do that is to talk about each other’s needs and work on seeing each other as whole people, not through the exclusive lens of the parent-child roles that each person fills.
Past Relationships Might Get in the Way
Many seniors who choose to date have had, if they are lucky, a marriage or other long-term, loving relationship. Often, they are widowed. It’s not uncommon that a widower will feel like they are being unfaithful to their late spouse if they date. Or, as we already talked about, they might worry about how their children will feel about it. But, for many, the kind of loneliness that comes from a lack of intimacy is a great threat to their well-being and the opportunity for loving, healthy companionship has many benefits. Plus, it’s just fun—especially when the responsibilities of younger adulthood have waned.
Tip: Let go. Finding healthy ways to let go of past relationships can be liberating and make room for what is in the present. It doesn’t mean that you have to forget or stop honoring the life you shared with that person, it just means that you remove the things that keep you from moving forward. Maybe you put wedding bands and photos away. Maybe you ask for the support of your children, but don’t let them make you feel embarrassed or ashamed for dating someone new. Maybe you spend time thinking about what that person would have wanted for you and come to terms with it.
Health Issues Might Interfere
Often, older people are dealing with health issues that make them feel vulnerable and worry about keeping up with a new love interest or about how it will affect physical intimacy. But, physical intimacy and loving touch are a valuable part of a healthy relationship. Studies show that affection boosts the body’s levels of oxytocin—a hormone that influences our ability to bond with and attach to each other. Many seniors today are able to and want to have intercourse, but are concerned about chronic and potentially fatal health issues that could be affected by their sex lives.
Tip: Consult the primary physician about these concerns and talk openly with the romantic partner. For many, the concerns are unfounded. Regardless, intercourse is not the only method of physical intimacy in a relationship and regular affection, such as holding hands, hugging and kissing is equally, if not more important.
At the end of the day, concerns about your senior loved ones dating come from your love for them—and ultimately, you all want the same thing: love. Hopefully we’ve shed a little light on how to make everyone a little more comfortable.