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Monday, 31 March 2014

Elder Dating

If you have read the About page on this blog or the Photo Biography, you know that I spent 25 years or so in New York City producing television shows. Because it's “show biz,” it operates differently from other businesses and when a new executive on any given show was hired, he or she often cleaned house to have the head count to fill with favored past colleagues.

There were a few times I was on the losing end of that “tradition” and while I was between gigs I sometimes wound up in some weird jobs – at least to me; work that I would not have sought on my own but a friend or friend of a friend knew my circumstances and matched me up with someone who needed a fill-in for short while.

One of those was a high-end, personal dating service. (There was no internet yet – this was the 1970s - and placing ads in newspapers or magazines was still new enough to feel a little creepy to many people.)

I've forgotten the exact details, but the general idea of the service was that the client would be introduced to three personally-selected people who matched the criteria the client had detailed on the application, along with invitations three parties that were held in the service owner's lavish Central Park apartment for all current clients to mingle.

At a price of $2500 for six months, the service was meant for professionals and members were mostly the Wall Street crowd, doctors, lawyers and assorted business types ranging in age from 30 or 35 to 50.

The owner's selection process for dates was amazingly casual, at least to me: “Oh, I think Larry and Sue would get along nicely, don't you, Ronni?” Nothing as thorough as that guy from eHarmony.com promises or, at least, implies in the television commercials.

It all felt just a bit sleazy and it wasn't the most fun I've ever had for a paycheck.

It had been many years since I'd thought about that gig until last week when The New York Times reported on some 21st century dating services for people age 60 and older - the “fastest growing demographic” of online dating.

But many older daters, explains The Times, don't use computers or are uncomfortable with dating websites so they are willing to pay for the services of “social strategy consultants” and “life coaches” who help clients re-learn the dating ropes.

”One of the big dating challenges for both sexes in this age group is that they are so rusty 'they go back to their same awkward self at age 20, insecure and unsure,' said Ms. [Judith] Gottesman [a geriatric social worker turned matchmaker], who charges a $3,600 registration fee that is good for up to three years, and an additional $7,200 once a couple is matched.”

That's as pricey for today as it was during my short foray into the dating business nearly 40 years ago.

Among Ms. Gottesman's advice:

”Don’t talk incessantly about — or show photos of — your deceased spouse. Don’t talk disparagingly about your ex. Don’t whip out your collection of diabetes, cholesterol or heart medications.”

I wonder if old people really need to be told that?

Mostly for financial reasons – to preserve inheritances for their children, for example - the majority of older daters are not looking for marriage:

"Harold Spielman, 86, is the co-author of Suddenly Solo: A Lifestyle Road Map for the Mature Widowed and Divorced Man...asked 1,600 men and women over 55 about their feelings on love...

Among his findings: More than 80 percent of both men and women said that the main reason to couple was 'to share life experiences, past and future,' said Mr. Spielman..."

The main reason to date, the respondents told Spielman, is “to share life experiences, past and future.”

That sounds a lot like a friend to me and last week, without touching on the subject of love or romance, we talked here at some length about how to find new friends in old age without breaking the bank account and we have some good strategies.

But that is not to say that if romance or a “friend with benefits” is more your goal and you don't choke on a price of several thousands dollars, this isn't a useful idea. Loneliness is a terrible thing and any way to alleviate it is to the good as far as I'm concerned.

Less expensive (but not cheap) is online dating that with commonsense precautions can be safely navigated. Marketwatch has a good list of the risks and how to avoid them.

And this website has a chart of the prices of the big-name online dating services.

Whatever stigma once existed with online dating has long dissipated and matchmakers are hardly a modern phenomenon – they've been around for millennia so you should not be shy about using them.

I'm curious to know if any of you, dear readers, have tried a matchmaker or online dating service and if so, what your experience was like.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Norm Jenson: Spring


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

No online dating or matchmaker for me, but a few years back I had an admirer. He was a true gun totin' Texan who rode a Harley! I remarked to my friends, "Can you see me on the back of a Harley with a concealed handgun in my pocket!"

I was 54 when widowed. I didn't date for at least 2 years, but finally did. I signed up for a free online dating service, and before I did, compared it to Match.com, where fees are charged. In looking at male profiles, I found many of the same guys on the free site as the paid one. That is not to say there's not a difference, just my experience.

At any rate, I had studied the rules for dating online, just to keep it safe. I met several men that were nice, but didn't work out romantically. Finally I started dating a very nice gentleman, widowed; we had a lot in common and dated for six months. It ended because I realized I didn't want to either remarry or live together. A distance of 50 miles also caused complications.

It was a time when I was still trying to figure out what I wanted -- and same for him. He seemed to want a wife, and I discovered I didn't want to marry again. We parted, though remained friends for quite some time.

In that time of online dating, I met a few jerks, or those who were incompatible. But could usually figure that out by talking on the phone with them, and never meeting.

I would just suggest to always make sure you follow all the rules of safety when finding someone online. Otherwise, it can be a pleasant experience.

I tried a few of the online sites after my husband died a few years ago, and at 70 I found that men my age almost uniformly were looking for women at least 10 years younger.

The ones who were interested in me were in their 80s -- the kind who, as a friend of mine said, "need either a nurse or a hearse."

No thanks. I was an Alzheimer's caregiver for 9 years, so I've been there and done both.

I'll stick with my women friends. And I rather like being alone.

My goal in life for the last
thirty years, has been and continues to be, all I
can be, moment by moment.
I love my friends in small doses... My cat is the only live-in male for me!
I've never used nor been interested in using any variety of "Dating Service"...
My happily single life began in 1970....

Being Alone is being All One!

Online dating came after my dating experiences, which included singles groups, singles ads in alternative newspapers, video dating, and online chat rooms -- none of which resulted in anything beyond an occasional first date. And all felt very "desperate." That's not a good way to start a relationship of any kind.

I think many people, old or young, who use dating services are looking for companionship and can't find it among the the people in the setting they are in. I just want someone that I can have a decent conversation with, who will laugh at my stupid jokes and tell some of her own and, if romance develops, so much the better.

As some of you know, I met my OH when I wasn't looking. I joined a website for older people that had special interest sections, like poetry, readers groups, different hobbies and I found D in the poetry. I admired his work, we started emailing and talking on the phone and finally met up.

I'd been 7 years on my own and liked it that way. But shared interests and mutual affection changed my mind. This was 12 years ago when I was in my early 60s. We've been together ever since.

As a result of Ronni's post today, I've trawled a couple of websites for "seniors": buzz50.com, silversurfers.com and they still exist for friendship or romance.

Not being needy for a relationship but just interested in others is a good place to start, IMO...you never know where it leads.

Placing an ad in the back of the Philadelphia Magazine in 1982 after my divorce gave me wonderful insight on my readiness for dating. I needed to find a job. Eighteen years as a house wife had not prepared me for the work world so my effort must have come off like a job application because some of the responses actually included resumes. I was single for 13 years as I built my career and met my 2nd husband through mutual friends. We were married for 14 years before his death in 2009. In 2011 I signed up for several online dating sites. Being able to chat online provides quicker introductions but unfortunately "selfies" from his computer cam are not at all flattering. It's difficult for me to take a man seriously if his approach to meeting women is so casual. In online dating you rarely get a 2nd chance to make a good impression. So I have posted both professional (not studio) and personal snapshots. I've learned and apply all of the safety rules but there is little I can do about the statistic. There are more available women than men (8:1 in Dallas) so being smart, attractive and witty doesn't count for much when most women online are the same. Taxes, restrictive pensions, health issues, protecting the inheritance of my kids are just a few of the considerations now that never applied when we both were much younger. Currently I only have one active account online. I won't renew when it expires. I'm done. I've given it my best but I'm emotionally exhausted. I'm not sure I agree with the comment about loneliness being "a terrible thing". Everything is a choice. With my family close by I get to choose enjoying being a grandmother.

A few years after my husband died I was ready for the dating game (I thought) and answered an ad in an Elder newspaper. The man and I had a brief correspondence and he sent me a photo. He was a good looking man wearing shorts standing on the tennis court holding a racquet. I made a date with him and was surprised when I met him to see that the photo had been taken at least 30 years previously. I never tried answering another ad.

I then joined a singles group and there were about four women to one man. All of the men were surrounded by adorning women and I never found a man that I thought was worthy of all that adoration. So my dates were with men I had known for years and while some of them wanted to marry again, I did not. So here I am, still single and glad of it.

I was really just looking to widen the pool; it seemed like i could find a date for dinner any time but a longer-term companionship wasn't available in the setting (work, neighborhood) I frequented. I did lie about my age by ten years. Apparently the site I selected shares info with other 55+ services because the person I met had signed up for a different site. I met a few men in person (the others i could tell by email were not suitable haha) before meeting him. He had met with five times as many women. So we have been together a few years now; life is different on the other end of the spectrum. I'm not looking for the father of my children or someone to support me, and he wasn't looking for a cook/housekeeper. We go places and have fun and do things we never did as 20-year olds. my my. very satisfying.
I recommend online searching. There's someone for everyone.

At age 50 I was divorced after 28 years of marriage. Shortly afterward I met my future husband on an online email support group for people struggling with depression. We noticed each other because I made a Jane Austen allusion, and he made a wittier one.

We were head over heels before we fully realized he lived in London, I in NY; I was 50, he was 34. We had a long-distance relationship for 6 years and got married in December 2001.

The country difference means things always have to be placed in context, so the age difference is not a particular problem.

I admit living alone has no appeal for me. I have 5 younger brothers and 4 daughters. I love sharing my life with a man. My first husband and I had a good marriage for a very long time, before we grew apart.


As some of you may know, I have been widowed for almost one year.
.
I was crazy about my husband and, for that reason I think if I ever married anyone else, it might have the same result as the story I relate here.


"A man walked out to the street and caught a taxi just going by. He got into the taxi, and the cabbie said, "Perfect timing. You're just like "Brian!

Passenger: "Who?"

Cabbie: "Brian Sullivan. He's a guy who did everything right all the time. Like my coming along when you needed a cab, things happen like that to Brian Sullivan, every single time."

Passenger: "There are always a few clouds over everybody."

Cabbie: "Not Brian Sullivan. He was a terrific athlete. He could have won the Grand Slam at tennis. He could golf with the pros. He sang
like an opera baritone and danced like a Broadway star and you should have heard him play the piano. He was an amazing guy."

Passenger: "Sounds like he was something really special."

Cabbie: "There's more. He had a memory like a computer. He remembered everybody's birthday. He knew all about wine, which foods to order and which fork to eat them with. He could fix anything. Not like me. I change a fuse, and the whole street blacks out. But Brian Sullivan, he could do everything right."

Passenger: "Wow. Some guy then."

Cabbie: "He always knew the quickest way to go in traffic and avoid traffic jams. Not like me, I always seem to get stuck in them. But Brian, he never made a mistake, and he really knew how to treat a woman and make her feel good. He would never answer her back even if she was in the wrong; and his clothing was always immaculate, shoes highly polished too. He was the perfect man! He never made a mistake. No one could ever measure up to Brian Sullivan."

Passenger: "An amazing fellow. How did you meet him?"

Cabbie: "Well, I never actually met Brian. He died. I'm married to his widow."

There are some women who strongly desire a male partner throughout their entire lives. Others, after they are widowed or divorced, don't feel the need, or at least not very strongly.

To me, the prospect of adjusting to someone new after retirement age just seems exhausting. Besides, I don't want to take care of some old man.

To each his own. I like being responsible to myself.

I once signed up for a newspaper dating supplement. I got one guy who was a little too OCD for me (he pulled out wipies and cleaned the table when we met for coffee), and another who was morbidly obese and wanted to rub my toes. I think he lived in his car. So, almost 7 years into widowhood, I guess I'm stuck with it.

As a recent widow, I appreciate the friends in my life. I don't know if I will eventually feel the need for an intimate relationship, but I certainly don't right now. I cannot imagine myself turning to a dating service of any type. I find I am always meeting new people. But who knows about the future.

I have many stories but here is one:
I met a guy off my blog. Taking all the usual precautions. I really liked his comments on my blog. We met for dinner in a public place.
He was the total antithesis of what he presented in his emails. He was homophobic, racist and a child-hater.
I got up after 30 minutes of mute (on my part) horror and told him never to contact me again.
That was my last "date".
XO
WWW

I have never tried on-line dating and while "never say never," applies in many cases, I don't think its for me.

My daughter, age 30, came up with her three "legs" for a good relationship: good company, good conversation and good chemistry. She commented that if one is missing, the relationsh doesn't work for her. I think she is onto something!

Hard to check chemistry online!

at 42 and recently divorced
it seems
I was quite popular and dated more then I will mention
Last time
12 years ago.
Never again...
in the last 70 years
I am quite content...

Though I've been single many years, I consider myself very lucky to have an oft-married male friend from my teenage years. I never would marry him, our lives criss-crossed frequently over the years; and now - in our 60's - how lucky I am to have a friend who has made the long, strange trip with me.

Having seen several of my older friends remarry after losing partners of many years I've concluded it's usually good for the men and much less so for the women.

After 49 years of marriage I haven't seen another man I'd *have* and finding one who would have me would be a monumental task indeed. :D

I am currently reading "Missing You" by Harlan Coben which is certainly a cautionary tale on this topic!

Ha! Your post today made me laugh at the memory of my short experience with online dating. I was in my mid-forties when I divorced and closer to the late 40s when I decided I was ready to try dating again.

I had a total of 3 dates - I will call them million dollar man, and no that's not a compliment; looking for a good horse man; and I wanna' hold your hand man. I'll leave it at that.

Three strikes and I was out of the online dating scene.

Shortly thereafter a friend introduced me to the wonderful man I am now married to.

I lost my partner at age 50. Two years later I met a man on an online dating site -- I think he was the first one I actually met. A month after we met, he moved in. We've been married for 16 years now--so I think it's a legitimate way to meet people. It's important though to actually meet the person before inventing an illusion of who he is!

This post and comments are timely in my case. My husband (#3) of 25 yrs and I have mutually decided that we would probably like each other better if we separate. It is a classic case of failing Kathleen's daughter's very insightful test; minimal company, little conversation and zero chemistry, all of which were there early on, but ..... So, it's possible that at some point, I'll be looking for the three Cs online and round about. So glad you posted on this topic, Ronni.

My single friend who is visiting signed up for OKCupid today. She started filling out the questions and went on for hours! Tip: stop end ever you get tired - it never ends!

She told my husband that I had helped her sign up for "OKStupid!"

Match.com 10 years ago.or is it 11? I've never trusted written descriptions. They are marketing materials. I had a string of coffee dates in coffee shops. And then this one lasted for a couple of hours after we left the coffee shop. She kept her marketing pretty close to reality. So, chemistry is the real determiner. And you have to kiss a lot of frogs before finding the princess. But if you look at it like an adventure, it will never be boring. Still living together. Neither one of us is interested in marriage. It would be too complicated.

These responses are hilarious. Finally figured out that marriage was not for me and have been happily single for many years.

I think the idea of marriage is oversold. Would much rather be liked than loved.

Well, at least the technology has improved. Many years ago when I was still in my 30s, I met my 2nd (ex)husband through what must have been the very first computer-dating service EVER! There was a 10-page questionnaire, and somehow we must have appeared to be a good match because a few weeks later I got a phone call from a stranger. (Things were much less sophisticated and presumably less risky back then).

Alas and alack, the 1960s-era computer didn't catch some very basic differences between us. We married shortly after we met and remained married for 5 years but spent very little of that time together. He was a heavy construction manager and liked living in places like Adak, Alaska. I, on the other hand, have always been a city-dweller. That was only one of many things we did not have in common, but he was a good guy. No regrets.

I am a psychologist who tried Match.Com two years after my fabulous husband of 43 years died of lung cancer. I married so early and enjoyed such a lovely marriage that I really did expect that most men who took my fancy would be: interesting, kind, funnier than hell, curious about me (if not fascinated by me), sensitive, creative, sturdy of character, passionate about live, etc. ("There will be no encores," my therapist warned me). No kidding. I dated a mime who didn't inform me that he was a mime until he put on white-make-up and danced for me in my own living-room, a billionare who was too needy, a .....well, a LOT of really needy guys, lots of unhealthy guys who just didn't see fit to put that part into into their Matc.Com photo - - now I've nearly given up. Good by, second-life-partner. Hello, singlehood. I still work, and I'm SO glad. By the way, I love your blog.
Kay Morgan

If you really want to be matched with someone (not just a warm body of the opposite sex), eharmony is the way to go. Unfortunately for me, Memphis is not a city of single men in their 70s who are liberal-minded and looking, so the matches are for men out of town. I tried that a couple of times, and it is too exhausting. I did wind up with one male friend that I see 3 or 4 times a year (he drives here). The problem seems to be in finding not only a compatibility match but a match in regard to what each of the participants expect in a relationship. You are in a far better area to find someone. Google their name; make sure they are who they say they are, be careful, and hope for the best. What can you lose except a little money?

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