Oh no!
It looks like you aren't logged in to the Ethel community. Log in to get the best user experience, save your favorite articles and quotes, and follow our authors.
Don't have an Online Account? Subscribe here

Proof That it’s Never Too Late for Romance

I'm in my 80s and feel alive again.

Comment Icon
Older couple kissing outside on a blanket
Getty Images
Comment Icon

The day before my 50th wedding anniversary, my husband passed away. I got married in my mid-20s (before the pill), and he was the only man I ever slept with. After he died, I figured I would go to my grave never having had another man in my life. That is, until I turned 80.

For the first few months in widowhood, there was a lot to keep me busy. I learned to eat dinner alone, pay the mortgage bills on time and put gas into my car without spilling it all over my shoes.

But soon something felt amiss. One night, as I came home into an empty and darkened house, it hit me. I was lonely. No matter how troublesome my marriage was at times, there was always comfort in having someone to complain to, to laugh with, to share a meal with.

But when you haven’t had a date in a half-century, where do you begin?

I asked friends, who shared their later-in-life love affairs. Go where older singles mingle, Barbara suggested. A love affair bloomed when she met Ben, 90, a good-looking and sharply dressed widower, at an event sponsored by her local community center.  It was instant kismet, she said. “We chattered until the center’s lights were dimmed. Banter flowed easily, and I felt like a teenager when he asked for my phone number.’’ Sad as she was when Ben died, two years later, she had few regrets. “Those two years were a bonus, something I never expected!”  

As the saying goes: “It’s better to have loved than to not have had love at all.”

Sheila agreed. When Sheila’s husband, Ralph, passed away a few weeks before her 80th birthday, she learned that Eli, a friend from her old neighborhood, had lost his wife, so she gave him a call. The two met for dinner, having gone in separate cars to the restaurant. “We talked as friends for hours about our families, having gone to each other’s children’s weddings, baby showers, etcetera.”

By the time they left the restaurant it was dark outside. “Not only did Eli walk me to my car; he waited until I drove away,” she noted, adding that this act made her feel safe and protected. “That was a big turn-on for me,” Sheila said. “I felt alive again!”

Cy understands that feeling. After two marriages, he wasn’t looking to meet anyone. That is, until he met my friend Sally, three years ago. He “went bonkers” when he saw her at a friend’s party. Sally had been widowed for about a year and was determined to live on her own. Cy, however, pursued her with loving cards and corny letters and finally got her to go on a dinner date.

That was the beginning of a fun-loving and very romantic relationship — walks along the beach, movies, even arguments about politics.

When Sally, at 83, was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, Cy moved into her apartment and cared for her until the end. At her funeral, I told Cy how happy he had made Sally these past few years. He teared up and said, “But not as happy as she made me.’’

That’s what love looks like when you are 80-plus. 

When a friend suggested I try an online dating site for older folks, I gave it a shot. And that’s how I met Phil. I was 81; he was 84. Even with a balding head and thick glasses, his photo enticed me. His honesty impressed me. His wife of 60 years was living in a memory care facility for those with advanced Alzheimer’s disease.

He wrote that he was lonely, and because he was still legally married, he felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. Life is short, he said, and he would like someone with whom to share dinner, enjoy a movie, have some laughs, even hold hands and hug. His comments mirrored my feelings to a tee.   

At first I was hesitant to date someone legally married, especially when a good friend chastised me for what she believed was immoral behavior. I believe that at our age that rule no longer applies. I told her you need to be in Phil’s shoes to understand that his loss is not much different from mine.

Phil and I met for coffee. Between sips of decaf and bites of babka, we swapped stories and photos of our kids and grandkids. I loved how his face lit up when he showed me a cellphone video of his adorable great-grandchild. He listened intently as I shared stories of my long life, which made me feel cared for and desired. Sex, the way we once knew it, may be off the table, but even at my age sparks fly.  

On a recent walk in the park, Phil reached for my hand when he saw I was slowing down, as my legs were getting tired. I melted. Soon, one strong feeling led to another. As we drove back to my house, I knew that hand-holding was no longer enough. Within minutes we were lying in bed, legs and arms wrapped around each other’s partially naked bodies. OK, so we had to do a little twisting and turning when arthritis got in the way. Fully satisfied, we fell fast asleep. Phil never heard my snoring. He had left his hearing aids at home.

Loving and being loved is crucial at any age, but it’s not easy to find that special someone in our later years. I have been lucky — and open to it.

Editor's Picks
Find money-making endeavors that are personally satisfying.
, July 18, 2024
Here are the ones that top the list.
, July 18, 2024
It's incredibly welcoming, especially for older women travelers.
, July 18, 2024