For many maturing Americans, 50 is the new 30.
People are living longer and healthier. No longer is 50 looked upon as the “beginning of the end,” but as a time of new adventures. And, many 50-plusses are ferociously living life to the fullest—traveling, wining and dining, pursuing new careers, re-imagining their styles and, yes, dating.
“There are many 50-plus persons that date and are part of the social scene, but it doesn't look like a scene from a retirement home,” said Marcy Crump, creator of FlyWire, Baltimore’s premiere social magazine and party network.
Several studies show that those 50 and older are dating for a range of reasons—they’re looking for love and marriage, companionship or friendship with “benefits,” that is, sex. And they are searching for those partners online—several websites, such as OurTime.com, are devoted to single seniors looking for relationships; social events; through involvement in philanthropic and hobby-related groups; at church and on cruises.
As with younger relationship-seekers, they approach and react to the dating scene with different attitudes and expectations and experience different degrees of success.
“I know a 50+ woman who has no problems meeting men and have an active dating life. I know a couple dating for a long period of time, 15+ years, and they live separately, they’re travel companions and publicly are a couple—not sure if either were interested in marriage or if they are monogamous. I have girlfriends older than 50 that are single and haven't found anyone they really like, but they're not too stressed about being single,” Crump said.
One woman told the AFRO she hasn't dated in two years and doesn't care to share her negative feelings with the world.
Some of the challenges—particularly for those who are divorced or widowed after a longtime relationship—are singular.
Some tend to rush into another relationship or a commitment because that’s what they are accustomed to, and that can make them more vulnerable to scams and to heartache, said DatingAdvice.com expert April Braswell.
“Building a midlife romance is more like planting a rose garden than a weekend project. Give yourselves plenty of time to prepare, plant and cultivate your love. Savor it,” she said in one advice column.
For Donna Stewart-Moore, a retired police officer from Glenn Dale, Md., the prospect of dating again after losing her husband of 27 years, was daunting.
“I wanted to know if or when I dated [that] the person would or could love me with the tender passion, understanding and unconditional manner which I had experienced,” she said.
“Since it had been 35 years since I had been in the dating arena, I found it to be a little scary. Things have changed in the world since I've dated,” she added. “My first date was an eye opener for me. The ‘gentleman,’ and I use this term loosely, wanted to know ‘Will I lose my pension if I remarry?’ I, with a quickness, responded without any facial expression or tone in my voice, ‘I don't know. I don't plan on marrying you!’”
Her transition was easier, though, since her husband made her promise to move on with her life.
“He said, ‘Donna you must promise me you will love again, I know you have a lot of love in you and you deserve to be happy. Please share that love with someone after I'm gone!’” the 64-year-old recalled. “What a gift to leave me and I plan on unwrapping it happily and deliberately.”
But older daters also have some advantages. By age 50, most people would have been married, widowed or divorced; undergone the highs and lows of parenthood; pursued a career; made and lost friends—they’ve lived and discovered much about themselves and what they want out of a relationship.
Donald Byrd, a financial planner from Washington, D.C., said after his divorce 10 years ago, it took a while before he started dating again.
“I needed to recover and gain a different perspective about what to expect from women,” he said.
And he also had some growing up to do. Many older daters, especially those who have had families and have had to live selflessly, may be more likely to consider how their actions impact others.
“When I was younger I was very impatient and I didn’t try to understand someone else’s perspective. My [dating] experiences…were unpredictable and uncertain and I had many insecurities,” he said. “Now, I have gained a greater insight of myself and my level of discernment has increased. I feel better about myself and who I am, so with my level of confidence I’m more relaxed, shoot, I would say, I’m fearless” when it comes to dating.
Though Byrd is now dating with an eye toward friendship and companionship, he hasn’t given up on the idea of love and marriage.
“I think the possibilities for falling in love are endless, and I want to believe I will because I’ve learned to share and I have something to give,” he said.
Meanwhile, Stewart-Moore seems to be well on her way to finding love—and marriage—again with a friend of 39 years, who she rediscovered four months ago on Facebook.
Sounding giddy as a school girl, she explained, “We see each other quite frequently and talk or text each other every day. JC is gentle, considerate, thoughtful (Boy, flowers when you least expect it! What woman would not like that!)…. He watches me [with] ‘dove eyes,’ like when the male dove fixes his eyes on the one he wants to mate with….
“Dating him has given me back my smile, my laughter, my joy.”