Add romance to what single older adults look for when seeking housing
By Kimberley Fowler for Next Avenue
There are many reasons older adults move into a senior living community, but is looking for love one of them?
Burdett Stilwell has been working with older adults for many years and, and as sales and marketing director of Somerby of Mobile, she has had the pleasure of developing friendships with the many residents of this Somerby Senior Living home in Alabama. She’s up-to-date on who is dating whom. When it comes to relationships, Stilwell says, the Somerby people she knows fall into two categories: those who are interested and those who have “been there, done that.”
How Senior Living Communities Bring Couples Together
While there’s a lot of data about couples who met in college or high school, research is lacking on couples in senior living communities. “Over 90 percent of the older adults we help move into senior living are moving in alone,” says Ben Hanowell, lead senior living researcher and data scientist at A Place for Mom, an assisted living referral service. “Once they move in, our organization unfortunately can’t track whether they are lucky in love.”
But the anecdotal evidence shows that many in senior living settings have active romantic lives. These kinds of communities can bring couples together, Stilwell says, adding that marriage is not unusual among residents.
“One couple grew up in the same county, but never knew each other,” she says. “When they met here, they had lots in common, so they got married and have been living with us for the past five years.”
Tom Giuliana, who works in operations and business development at Meridian Senior Living in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., echoes Stilwell’s sentiment. “Alex P. and Alice B. are a couple who met at the community about a year ago,” he says. “He plays guitar for her every day, and they are always laughing and spending their time together.”
Searching for Another Chance at Love
“Senior living communities are one place where dating has blossomed,” writes A Place for Mom’s Jeff Anderson. “Men and women who had once resigned themselves to isolation have been able to rebuild intimacy with a new companion, in a new place, and in new ways.”
For some widows and widowers, the communities offer a chance to experience love again and the new lease on life that those feelings bring.
Stilwell shared a story of one man at Somerby who was a caring and kind caregiver dedicated to his wife. Several months after she died, he found a girlfriend and staff saw him doing things they hadn’t seen him do before — having carefree fun and going out on excursions.
A long-term relationship is not always a priority in these facilities, of course. And when it comes to dating, men have an advantage in most senior living communities, simply because there are fewer of them there.
“Among older adults who move into senior living alone, there are over two-and-a-half times as many women as men,” Hanowell says, “and the gap is wider for older age groups.” Among those age 65 to 70, there are 57 percent more women who move in alone than men. Compare that to ages 90 to 99, where more than three times as many single women than men move into senior living.
Enjoying the Single Life at a Senior Living Community
Stilwell says it’s not uncommon for new female residents to ask “Where are the men?” upon moving in. And when single men do move into the community, “everyone comes by to see who it is,” she says.
At this year’s “no partner needed” Valentine’s Day dance, the single men will get lots of attention, Stilwell says.
What are these single ladies looking for? Pretty much what anyone on the dating scene is: companionship, fun and intimacy. One resident asked Stilwell to find her a man who “has a car, is a safe driver and if he’s cute, too, that’s a bonus.”
Incidentally, sexual education classes are frequently offered at senior living communities, often at the request of residents.
“It all still goes on,” Stilwell says.
In other words, people don’t really change.