There’s no reason for single seniors to feel alone in senior living communities, surrounded by their peers—many of whom are also single. Just like friendship, romance is an important part of our lives at every stage.
“The comfort and joy brought on by romantic relationships can benefit seniors, particularly as they continue to age and seek meaning, purpose, and a sense of belonging,” says Rita Altman, senior vice president of Memory Care Services for Sunrise Senior Living, which has communities in 31 U.S. states as well as Canada and Britain.
Altman says she’s heard many anecdotes from widows or widowers who found new love in their senior living communities.
So forget about being solo. Follow these four tips to make the most of the dating scene at a senior living community.
1. Get involved
Participating in an activity or going on an outing organized by your senior living community is an easy way to start a relationship. Even if you’re not seeking a major commitment, Altman suggests that you still take advantage of your community’s social programming and activities.
“You may experience shared interests with other residents that develop into meaningful friendships,” she says. If you’re seeking something more, then a friendship is a good foundation for an eventual romantic relationship.
2. Take it slow
As you start dating, take things slow. It’s easy to fall head over heels for someone if you’ve been single for a while, but it’s best to take a relaxed approach and let a relationship grow over time. Because you’re living in a relatively small community, you’ll want to make sure you manage your friendships and other relationships carefully.
3. Be safe
For seniors who want an active love life, it’s important to take appropriate safety precautions. You don’t want to jump into a physical relationship with someone with whom you don’t have a good emotional connection. More important, you need to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases, which are on the rise among older Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
4. Meet the family
Once you start getting serious about someone, it’s helpful to introduce your love interest to the rest of your family. It can be mind-boggling for children to learn that an elderly parent wants to be romantically involved. They might even think it would mar the memory of a deceased parent.
“Some people feel that romantic relationships should not be pursued by seniors because they have a shorter time left and they are not physically capable of sexual contact; both of these reasons are irrelevant,” says Jenny Wallis, community marketing director at Villa Bonita Senior Living in California.
At a time in life when your social contacts can start dwindling, “it is nice to know that it is never too late to meet people and start new relationships, intimate or not,” she says.