As stated in part one students often take interpersonal and/or family communication classes because these classes provide them with an opportunity to apply what they learn in their daily lives. And as a professor in the field of family communication, I incorporate my own research into class lectures and readings. After examining the research associated with later life marriages in part one, we will now look at the research on later life dating couples.
The Single and Dating Older Family Member
With the greying of divorce, we are seeing a larger number of single later life adults (over the age of 60 years). When we think about our single, older family members, we tend not to think about them as socially and sexually active adults. They too need companionship, intimate love and affection. My research has shown that we need to think about our older family members differently.
Many older adults are healthy and active and do not want to be alone. They seek out activities where they can meet other single, older adults. For example, we know that later life adults are frequent users of online dating sites. There are also many dating sites that target later life adults, such as SilverSingles.com or Ourtime.com.
What Are Single Older Adults Looking For In a Partner?
We know that older women are looking for companionship and independence. And while older men are also look for companionship, many are also interested in remarriage. The concern here is that it is common for women to want to avoid marriage and maintain their independence. So, we are finding that older men and women may have different goals when dating. And this can complicate the relationship. Both older men and women report that they are interested in closeness, intimacy and a mature sexual relationship.
Challenges Older Adults Face When Dating
Older dating adults report challenges they experience while dating. For example, dating older adults reported having difficult conversations with family members about their dating practices. Adult children, especially sons of mothers, tend not to support their parent dating. Some adult children provide support and encouragement for their older, dating parent, while others express concern and feel it is not appropriate for an older parent to date. Second, older, dating adults also reported that they are set in their ways and at times find the habits of their dating partner annoying. They said they just didn’t want to change or adjust their way of living. Finally, older dating adults report that their dating goals may be different. As stated earlier, men may be looking to remarry while older women want to maintain their independence. These challenges contributed to the difficultly associated with navigating intimate relationships in later life.
What does this research tell us?
First and foremost, it informs us on the complexities of life for the single older adult and breaks down stereotypes about our single, older family members. Second, it encourages us to reexamine the role of family members when providing support to the older family member. Finally, this kind of research breaks down stereotypes, giving us a different view of our older family members. Research has shown that high quality intimate relationships are good for our health and increase our longevity. Everyone needs closeness and intimacy, even our older family members.
By: Dr. Fran Dickson, professor, EKU Department of Communication
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