Senior singles ready to mingle may have cause to celebrate this Valentine’s Day. A recent report by Seniorly analyzed data from the CDC, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau to determine which of the 50 states are best suited for seniors looking for love.
Marlena del Hierro, vice president of partnerships and a gerontologist at Seniorly said the study was conducted because “companionship, community, and connection” matter to seniors, and “with Valentine’s Day approaching, we wanted to take a moment to look at the landscape of love available to them today.”
The researchers found that 54 million Americans are currently 65 and older, an unprecedented 43% of whom are single. They identified 10 categories to determine which states are best (and worst) suited for single seniors, including the ratio of women to men, the percentage of single seniors present, the cost of living/ how expensive it is to date, annual income average, the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections, and the quality of life and life expectancy in each state.
The report found that eight of the 10 best states for senior dating are in the West or Midwest, with two from the Northeast. 9 of the 10 worst states are in the South, with our nation’s capital being the sole exception.
The 10 best states for senior singles (listed in order from the best first) are: Idaho, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Vermont, Utah, Washington, Oregon, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Iowa.
The 10 worst places for senior singles (listed in order from the worst first) are: Mississippi, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, and Georgia.
While each state presented unique advantages and disadvantages for seniors entering the dating pool, del Hierro also identified some common challenges for seniors living anywhere, including how senior women outnumber senior men across the country, limited mobility or medical issues potentially impeding one’s ability to get out and about or to be as intimate as desired, and living conditions where some seniors may be staying with family members, thus making it more difficult to bring a date home. What’s more, while technology has facilitated many new ways for some seniors to connect with one another, it also presents a barrier to seniors who haven’t kept up with the latest dating app or every social media channel of communication.
The way we date has changed dramatically — and so have we
Laurel House, an eHarmony relationship and empowerment coach, also noted that the landscape for many seniors has often changed since the last time they were actively dating. “Dating is different now,” House said. “The platform is different: online. The style is different: more direct. Your bodies are different: aged.”
“Another thing that is truly special to this group is that they wonder what their children will think,” noted Dr. Pepper Schwartz, an on-air relationship expert and a professor of sociology at the University of Washington. Schwartz said she recently talked with a couple in their mid-80’s who, for a time, were dating in secret because they worried their adult children would view their relationship as disrespectful to their former spouses. “As it turned out, both families were delighted,” she said.
Experts say there are many advantages to dating later in life
The relationship experts also pointed out many advantages seniors have over their younger counterparts, including a wealth of knowledge “about themselves, the world, and what they’re looking for and need in a companion,” said del Hierro. What’s more, many seniors no longer have the burden of a mortgage or family obligations and likely have more financial resources at their disposal than they had when they were younger. Seniors also have more time to travel and to share in fun experiences with their dating partner, not to mention “numerous senior discounts that often include free days at museums, winery tour discounts, discounts on symphony tickets, and discounted transit passes,” explained del Hierro.
One advantage noted by House is that “seniors are often clearer on their priorities and paths. They generally aren’t into playing the field and are looking for real relationships and not interested in games (more common among younger daters),” she said.
Dr. Eric Marlowe Garrison, a sex counselor and certification chair for the American Association of Sexuality Educators, said that another benefit seniors have over younger generations is “there’s no longer a risk of pregnancy for most heterosexual couples.”
Overall, “seniors are just wiser,” Schwartz suggested. “They know themselves better and generally go for solid values rather than just an endocrine-fueled attachment. Seniors often say they can think more clearly now that their sexual drives are more manageable.”
“Seniors can find that their golden years include an amount of freedom they may have never had before. This is the time to pursue what makes you happy without worrying so much about consequences or about what others think.
Marlena del Hierro
Along with such advantages also come new opportunities that may not have been available to seniors the last time they were on the dating scene. “Seniors may not realize there are lots of online resources available to them now,” said del Hierro, suggesting senior dating sites, roommate finder sites for seniors, and “sites that can connect them to activities in their town specifically designed for seniors.”
Del Hierro has some advice for seniors looking for love: “Live for yourself,” she said. “Seniors can find that their golden years include an amount of freedom they may have never had before. This is the time to pursue what makes you happy without worrying so much about consequences or about what others think.”
“Date new people who you might not have historically considered,” offered House. “You might feel like a certain type of person is your perfect match, but possibly the match that was perfect for you 40 years ago is different today, and now you are looking for someone and something new.”
“At any age, it’s important for couples to engage in N.I.C.E. activities that are novel, interesting, challenging, and exciting,” suggested relationship expert Dr. Gary Lewandowski, author of Stronger Than You Think: The 10 Blind Spots That Undermine Your Relationship…and How to See Past Them. “Research finds that these types of activities help individual’s feel better about themselves, and that these activities also help strengthen relationships."
Garrison suggested for seniors to look for partners with common interests. “You have decades of cooking, reading, religion, crafts, and experience pursuing things that have brought you immense joy. Now find others who share your passion,” he said.
“My tip is don’t doubt that you can love as deeply, passionately and ecstatically as you could when you were younger. Love is still love. Just be yourself,” advised Schwartz.