The possibility of your aging parent or loved one reentering the dating world can cause a range of emotional stress. Is it safe? Is it appropriate? How soon is too soon after the loss of a spouse? The answers to these questions vary with each family’s unique situation, but there are some common factors to consider as you and your senior loved one broach this topic.
Here are four suggestions to keep in mind as you talk to your senior loved one about dating:
1. It might be awkward. (But that’s ok!)
No matter how close you are to your senior parent, discussing the details of your loved one’s dating life will likely be a little awkward for the both of you. He or she may feel embarrassed or may not want to talk about it at all. That’s okay; do not force the issue unless you suspect an extreme circumstance such as physical, emotional or financial abuse. Simply continue to show interest and concern in a way that invites open conversation. Check out the resources of the 40-70 Rule for insight into conversation strategies for this and other sensitive topics.
2. It’s important to have “the talk.” (Yes, that one.)
A significant number of seniors are not only dating, but they are also sexually active, according to studies. The National Poll on Healthy Aging from the University of Michigan found that 40 percent of adults aged 65 to 80 are sexually active, and more than half, 54 percent, say sex is important to their quality of life. Sixty-five percent of people in this age group describe themselves as still being interested in sex. This research could point to that fact that safe sex, privacy and STD awareness are real concerns. The lesson here? Senior dating may not be a comfortable topic to discuss, but the risks of ignoring it are far worse. Stay the course.
3. Companionship is healthy!
As with men and women of any age, relationships are vital to a senior’s overall well-being. Loneliness and isolation can increase with age. Watch for the signs of loneliness, which may increase as we age. High blood pressure, depression and loss of appetite are just a few ways the physical and emotional stress of loneliness could manifest itself in a senior’s life. Dating and other social activities can help to reverse this dangerous cycle.
4. Your senior loved one needs your support.
Whatever your senior loved one’s dating status and desires, try to be as encouraging and supportive as possible. From making new friends at the community center, to going on a blind date, your support will help your loved one feel confident and not alone.
In this digital age, online dating can be one fun and effective way to find a kindred spirit. Sites like SeniorMatch.com specialize not only in romantic connections, but in friendships as well. Consider helping your senior set up an online dating profile. It could be a fun way to spend time together and gives you the opportunity to stay in the loop on the dating situation! Check out these tips for keeping seniors safe online.
While a busier social life for Mom or Dad may introduce new stress for you, these activities and relationships can do wonders for their overall health and emotional wellbeing.
If you could use some assistance managing the logistics of your senior loved one’s social calendar, consider contacting an in-home care company like your local Home Instead® franchise office. Their companionship services include help with transportation, hobbies and more!