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Here’s What It’s Really Like to Date in Your 80s

It’s sexy, fulfilling, fun and, yes, sometimes confusing.

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illustration of couple holding hands sitting on chairs by the ocean, dating
Kiersten Essenpreis
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Eleven years ago, after a 50-year marriage, I entered a new chapter of life with a very different title. No longer a wife; I became a widow.

I was 74 at the time and still playing tennis. I had energy. I had spunk. On a trip to the Cayman Islands with my children and grandchildren, I too, swam with the dolphins.

But after a lengthy period of mourning for my beloved, I was itching for something more. A boyfriend perhaps or a really nice dinner date would do. But first I had to learn the rules of late-in-life dating.

At a certain age, I learned that it’s perfectly acceptable for a lady to ask a gentleman for a dinner date, especially if she can drive and he no longer can. These days, going Dutch is also fine; especially if both are living on fixed incomes.

Looking back on my years of senior dating, I’d like to share some of my good, bad and even a few of my very humorous experiences.

I met a few prospects on senior Internet dating sites, some the widowers of deceased friends. One guy I dated was a classmate from high school with whom I met up after many decades. If nothing else, they were an eclectic group of guys.

First, there was Cheap Bob. He considered going to Wendy’s a perfectly acceptable first-time dinner date. Then there was “Never Shut Up’’ Frank. He talked non-stop about himself. I had a tough time keeping awake!

Then there was the guy I called Deaf Man because he never heard a word I said. Looking back, I wonder if he really couldn’t hear me, or like some men I know, he only heard when he wanted to hear.

And the most accurate label was for a man who thought he could drive at night. His vision was so impaired that he was a danger on the road. I labeled him Near Death, and I only went out with him once. One could argue that this man was truly a “blind date.’’

I consider all the men I dated in my early years of widowhood as the training wheels for the relationship I now have with the most kind and caring man.

Phil just turned 88. I’m 85. We’ve been dating for four years. Yup, we met on an Internet dating site. (It was a lucky gamble.) Presently, we both live in our own homes. This is called LAT or living apart together. However, we do spend as much time as possible with each other.

When my granddaughter Julia once asked if people our age have sex, I was at a loss as to what to say. I did muster the courage to explain that her definition of sex (intercourse) might be off the table for those in our later years due to physical changes, medications and such. But satisfying love and intimacy — cuddling, kissing and caressing — can last a lifetime.

One step beyond senior dating is living together. In days gone by, such a coupling would be considered living in sin. Not so anymore, if for no other reason than when two people share the household expenses, there is more money to spend on cruising or vacationing in the Bahamas!

My 80-year-old friend Betty is in a committed relationship with 83-year-old Herman. They spend weekends at Herman’s condo. She keeps her apartment, however, because, after two days together, she’s ready to have her own space!

On days my arthritic spine is kind and Phi’s knees are pain-free, we walk along a nearby preserve and marvel at the beauty of nature. Old age gives us the time and freedom to notice what’s always been here, but we were too busy to notice. On rainy days, we head for a museum, enthralled by how artists have captured beauty in sculptures and on paper.

While our grandchildren make plans for their futures; we decide what to do every day. A recent full-day activity may be nothing more than dining and holding hands as we stroll through a local mall. We watch as preschoolers romp in the indoor playground and wonder how our lives have flown by so fast. A stop for ice cream makes the afternoon complete.

Recently, we’ve been talking about moving in together at a nearby independent senior living community. Talking, however, is about as far as we have gone. Right now we are both in fairly good health and capable of caring for ourselves. If Phil becomes ill, do I become the sole caretaker when it’s not that easy to take care of myself? And I can’t even think about another loss and going through the grieving process once again.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? According to a National Institutes of Health statistic, the average life expectancy of an 80-year-old white female is 9.1 years more. For a man the same age, it’s less — 7.0 years.

But then I think how life is so tentative at our age. So many of our friends are gone; others are failing.

As I write this essay, I feel Phil’s arms around me as we fall asleep together, his warmth and his caressing. (You hear that, Julia?) I wonder if a few glorious years — maybe only months together — will be worth the risk, the chaos and the confusion of moving on after loss.

But then I recall a Latin phrase — carpe diem or seize the day — and I think I know my answer.

Have any of you dated after the age of 80? Or dated later in life? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Relationships
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