Dating advice today is usually geared toward the young and never-married. What most people don't realize, however, is that half of America's singles are over 40. Of that crowd, those who are 60-plus and dating make up a growing group of interesting and exciting individuals.
This group is unique in that they have often already been married, raised children, and worked one or more careers. Many are in good health and have a zest for life unseen in previous generations. They love to celebrate milestones, travel to new places, and socialize. Take 65-year old Callie, who told me, "My class is going to have a Medicare Party soon. We'll eat, drink, and (the ones who can still move) will dance!"
People over 60 aren't necessarily dating with an intention of marriage. Callie said she wants someone to spend time with. "In marriage, the good times outweighed the bad," she said. "You had constant companionship. I'm freer now than in my 30s. I have no kids, no job, so it would be nice to have someone I could go places with who thinks like me."
Having generational compatibility is an important asset in choosing a companion. Callie told me she could remember when Chattanooga only had one television station and exactly when integration happened. A retired educator, she isn't interested in dating a man who could have been her student long ago. She has made philosophical adjustments.
"I'm willing to date outside my race now," she said. "I'm open to Internet dating because I don't want to go to clubs." She's also tried mature singles groups hosted by churches.
A dislike for clubs was a running theme among this age group, though most acknowledged they were club goers in their youth. "We need other places to meet people," Callie said.
All those 60 and above are not the same. Julie, 69, is a travel writer who reports on easily accessible vacations spots.
She observed, "I have a friend who is in her 80s and has a beau. I think the older generations, those who grew up before the women's liberation movement, seem to pair up more. My age group is more independent out of necessity. I've been married twice and I love men, but I'm not looking. I like not being responsible for someone else's happiness."
Echoing this tendency toward independence is 65-year-old Gerald, who has never married but occasionally goes out with women introduced to him by his married friends. "I did want to marry when I was younger. As a newspaper man, I worked nights and weekends, and 90 percent of those I worked with were single or divorced. It wasn't a career that lent itself to marriage and family.
"I can see that a lot of the ladies I go out with are expecting to be cared for in a certain way. I know I can't provide that for them." He spends time alone, with friends, and on dates, and is content with the rhythm he's found.
Helen, who describes herself as "60 something", saw the pyramids not long ago and is planning a Thanksgiving getaway to an exotic location this year. She says it best when she exclaimed, "We deserve some fun too! We need a better way of meeting people. A new relationship will make your quality of life better. You can travel, laugh together, go to the movies, out to eat, or just talk about anything."
She added, "We may look happy, but there's something missing. It's the closeness of the opposite sex." Love, at any age, is a worthy endeavor.
All names in this article have been changed. Leave an online comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tabi Upton, MA-lpc, is a local therapist and founder of www.chattanoogacounselor.com, a resource and referral website.