Senior man pushing senior woman laughing in wheelbarrow.

When An Aging Parent Starts Dating Again

Remember way back when you thought your parents were too strict about dating and maybe you rebelled a bit against their rules? Well, for many adult children the dating shoe is now on the other foot!

With our aging parents living longer and healthier lives, people in their 70’s, 80’s and beyond are re-entering the dating world looking for companionship and maybe even another chance at love. And you may be the one who feels overly protective or even resistant to Mom or Dad diving into the dating pool again. 

While some adult sons and daughters are eager to see their widowed or divorced parent dating again, others may reject the idea, seeing it as a sort of betrayal towards the other parent. Both attitudes are perfectly understandable. However, there are a lot of good reasons to support your parent in finding companionship and even a great partner to share their life with.

Loneliness can be an obstacle to good health

The potentially harmful effects of loneliness and social isolation on health and longevity, especially among older adults, are well established. Research finds that loneliness can impair health by raising levels of stress hormones and inflammation, which in turn can increase the risk of heart disease, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, dementia, and depression.

Seniors who begin dating most often say they are looking for someone special with whom to travel, share dinners and movies, or enjoy hobbies and interests like walking and biking. Developing these new friendships and relationships can renew interest in life, improve physical health, create new opportunities for self-discovery and very simply, gladden the heart.  This sounds like a pretty good prescription for making the most of each and every day!

Tips to help a parent find companionship

While dating again can be exciting, it also can be a little scary. (Remember the butterflies you felt on your first date?) Here are some suggestions to help him or her step out into the world of dating again:

  • Encourage your parent to accept invitations. Just getting out increases the chances of meeting new people — and friends are sometimes found in unlikely places.

  • Check out continuing-education classes at a local college or university. Many colleges allow older adults to audit regular classes for free, and some have programs specifically for seniors.

  • Senior centers have moved way beyond Friday-night bingo. Most have a variety of classes, activities and even trips. Stop by and ask for a schedule.

  • Encourage a parent to look for things he or she is already passionate about (concerts, cooking classes, tai chi, book clubs) and attend consistently so they can build relationships naturally.

  • Check out a senior online dating site. People age 55+ are the fastest growing segment of online dating. There are paid and free dating sites that cater just to seniors and are easy to navigate and build a personal profile. 

After her divorce, Mary Ann age 67, decided to try online dating. Here she met Glenn who she describes as “a real keeper!”  However, Mary Ann’s adult son was initially reluctant to accept this new phase of his mother’s life. She observes, “I’d always lived my life wanting to please other people—especially my children. But I knew it was important at this time of life to concentrate on my own sense of wellbeing, peace, and happiness. When my kids (including my older son) saw me smiling and feeling so alive again, they came around and welcomed Glenn into all our lives.”

It may be hard sometimes to see our parents with new eyes. But it’s important to remember that we can still feel young at heart when it comes to romance and companionship— at any age. Above all, let your parent know you’re on that you’re on their side when it comes to love and happiness—just like they have always been on yours!