Finding love later in life

Sharon picked up the telephone and began dialing. Halfway through, she stopped and pulled the newspaper closer. She glanced at the personal ad she had circled in red: “Retired accountant, 66, non-smoker, with zest for life and sense of humour, good dancer, seeks…”

It was the comments about a sense of humour and being a good dancer that intrigued the petite nursing instructor. After another moment of hesitation, realizing that she wouldn’t find out any more about the man in the ad unless she completed her call, she picked up the phone and began dialing once more.

Because we’re living longer and are generally in better health, the incidence of marriage and cohabitation among over-50s is increasing. With the help of personal ads, dating services, singles’ dances, church activity groups and seniors’ centres, many mature single men and women are looking for love – hopefully in all the right places.

Takes perseverance
There’s no doubt that it takes a bit of perseverance and determination to find a new companion when you’re no longer young. Since women outlive men by an average of seven to eight years, finding someone to love again is evenore daunting for mature women.

Yet, according to gerontologists and mental health experts, a loving and supportive relationship not only benefits our physical and emotional health, but it also enriches-even extends-our lives. The good news is that those of us who are determined to find a new mate usually succeed. The not-so-good news-with the ratio of senior men to women, women have to work at it just a bit harder.

Here is what the experts advise you to keep in mind when making the decision to start dating again.

  • Take care of yourself
    While the passing of the years will exact a price on how you look, it is largely up to each of us to determine how high that price will be. Putting your best foot forward at any age plus a positive attitude are the cornerstones of successful aging-and key to finding a caring partner.
  • Exercise
    Being fit can be as costly as a membership in an exclusive fitness club or as economical as starting a program of regular brisk walks, where all you need is discipline and a pair of walking shoes.

Whatever your preference, an exercise program will renew your vitality and spirit. If you start your quest for a new special someone armed with a new liking for yourself, you’ll attract people who appreciate your energy and who care about themselves too.

  • Get out there
    “Poppycock!” that’s what Susan, a widow and teacher in her late 50s, said when friends warned her of slim chances for meeting a compatible mate at her age. She enrolled in a dating service, answered newspaper ads, signed up for night school classes and started exercising twice a week. She also joined a weekend hiking club, and she and a friend attended singles’ dances.

Susan met a number of interesting single men over the period of a year. Two of them even proposed to her. But it wasn’t until an outing with her hiking group in late summer that Susan found that special spark that she was looking for. A strap on her knapsack broke and a passing hiker, who was not with her group, took the trouble of fixing it. His name was Martin-and Susan had never met anybody who was more alive.

  • Be open — but don’t compromise your values

  • Although their relationship quickly blossomed, there was one issue Susan couldn’t overlook. “Martin smokes,” she told her friend and, for that reason, she turned down his marriage proposal three months after they’d first met.

    “I lost my first husband and my dad to cancer,” she told him, “and am not looking for a repeat performance.” But Martin hung in there and surprised everybody by quitting cigarettes.

    “Gutsy women like Susan are hard to find. And I’m not going to let her get away by default,” he said. They tied the knot two months later.

  • Don’t hold out for perfection

  • “The gloomiest thing a woman over 50 can do is pay too much attention to statistics,” insists Mary, 53. Despite an acrimonious divorce four years earlier, the attractive teacher, who jogs three times a week and takes yoga classes, missed having a man in her life. She met Clyve at a church dance.

    “On the dance floor, I discovered Clyve was three inches shorter than me, a shade on the chubby side but, by far, the best dancer in the hall,” says Mary.

    When she was younger, Mary never would have been interested in someone shorter than her. But what she now finds attractive in a person has changed dramatically. In the months that followed, she discovered that Clyve was smart and kind, plus he made her laugh.

    When Clyve told her he loved her, Mary couldn’t have been happier.

    “But I told him that I would only settle for marriage, nothing less.” When Clyve’s family insisted on a gala affair and as preparations became complex, Mary threatened to call the wedding off. A week later they were married at city hall with just the immediate family in attendance.

    Happy ending
    Marriage counsellors advise that if a budding relationship isn’t off to a flying start, you shouldn’t immediately think there’s something wrong with the other person. It would take three to five people to satisfy all our needs.

    “The key to all relationships is honest communications,” says Richard Grossman, director of the Health in Medicine Project at Montefiore Medical Project in the Bronx, New York. And keep in mind that while it is important you choose someone with whom you are simpatico, don’t insist on holding out for the perfect mate. It may be a long wait. And in the process you may pass up a winner.

    As for Sharon, the nursing instructor, she did leave a message and eventually met the retired accountant from the personal ad. They went out on a couple of dates, but the chemistry wasn’t there. Six weeks later, on a rainy evening, a man in a dripping raincoat squeezed into the elevator of her apartment building.

    He apologized profusely for getting her wet. Sharon made light of it and they began talking. It turned out he had just moved into her building. That’s how Sharon met Gerry, a retired travel agent-and her future husband.