Establishing Meaningful Relationships Later in Life

My 86 grandmother recently returned from an excursion to Las Vegas to celebrate New Year’s with her boyfriend and this week they are headed to Aruba.  Her schedule is filled with taking classes at the senior center,  Mah-jong, lunch and dinner dates and Saturday Costco trips.  When she talks about her boyfriend, her smile shines bright. My grandfather passed away 21 years ago at the age of 65, and my grandmother has been fotunate enough to develop a meaningful relationship with another man.  My work in the field of aging has only enhanced the respect I have for the relationships my grandmother has mantained after my grandfather’s passing.

Older Adults and the Importance of Relationships

As our clients age, they experience many losses, especially after a death of a spouse. The loss of a spouse means the loss of companionship, both physical and emotional. For many of our clients, their social connections diminish when companions and friends pass away which can lead to depression and isolation.

In response to these losses, there is a growing trend of older people falling in love, living together and even marrying each other later in life. Unfortunately, this trend seems to make people uncomfortable.  Our society is more comfortable when older adults care for grandchildren and play Bingo rather than to hold hands, date and have sex.  People are more likely to joke about this kind of affection rather than talk truthfully and honestly about the reality of older adults’ emotional and physical needs.  Relationships and sex among older adults have always been viewed as “taboo.”  But as we age, our need for connection does not disappear. Yet, older adults continue to have desires; their romantic and intimate relationships are similar to their younger counterparts.

The Family’s View Point

For many families, it’s difficult to see their 89 year old mothers or fathers date again. Some families are concerned that a prospective partner may be a gold digger or may not look out for the best interest of their loved one. Yet, some families are supportive of this new chapter in their parents’ lives. Some families are helping their parents with on-line dating sites. My grandmother was set up with her boyfriend by a mutual friend, and my entire family has been so grateful that she’s met such a compatible companion. You’re never too old to make friends or to fall in love.

Some ways for older adults to meet companions include;

  • Volunteering
  • Traveling
  • Participating in community programs i.e. Senior Centers and Religious Organizations.
  • Exercise classes like Yoga and card games
  • Reconnecting with old friends and family members.

Thanks to Martha Tierney for editing this post. And, thank you to my grandmother for allowing me use the picture from my wedding to illustrate how meaningful relationships can be established later in life.

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