Senior citizen dating focuses on companionship

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When Loisanne Posluszny, 71, came to Ithaca from Connecticut about five years ago, she was recently divorced, in a new neighborhood and looking to find someone new. As many do in today’s dating world, she turned to online dating, specifically Our Time and Plenty of Fish – two sites specifically geared toward singles over 55.

“I only knew my son when I first moved here and some of his friends, and I really wasn’t used to living alone,” she said. “You don’t think about it until it happens.”

Though she did end up finding someone she liked, she was now living independently, and she wanted to stay that way.

“All of a sudden, I realized I didn’t want to change, should it come to that,” she said. “I didn’t want to move. I wanted to keep my independence.”
Besides, Posluszny found something beyond romance in her online dating journey.

“I met a lot of people that I didn’t even go out with, but they were nice guys,” she said. “The ones that I had most acquaintance with, we might call each other once or twice a day, so just having the phone company is a big thing as opposed to eating alone.”

This companionship led Posluszny to where she is today – vice president of Ithaca Sociable Singles, a social group designed for people 55 and older.

“After a while, I happened on an ad in the Ithaca Times that said the singles were meeting that Wednesday for dinner, and I just thought I would see what it was like, and I’ve been a member ever since,” she said.

As she spent more time with the singles group, Posluszny learned that she wanted something different than just to fall in love.

“I got so many good friends with the singles group that I had less of a need for man-and-woman connections,” she said. “I just wanted people to do things with, and that’s what I have now.”

Posluszny is not alone in her story. According to the U.S. census, nearly 20 million seniors age 65 and older are single, from divorce, spousal death and other reasons. Add onto that that women tend to live longer than men, Posluszny said, and that leads to plenty of lonely hearts potentially stuck in rocking chairs.

And Posluszny’s turn to online dating isn’t an anomaly, either. A 2013 Pew Research Center study found that 6% of Americans between ages 55 and 64 had used an online dating website or app, compared to 10% of 18-to-24-year-olds.

“Luckily, in this era, thanks partly to the computers, … it’s not as hard as you might think if you really want to go out with someone,” Posluszny said. “Younger people tend to meet people through work or maybe they workout and they meet somebody at the gym, that sort of thing. And since most of us don’t do that, [online is] pretty much the main avenue.”

But what does this dating look like? As Posluszny described, the purpose of dating at an old age is significantly different from what younger people are typically looking for.

“There’s … many people out there that just want to have a good time, and when I was younger, obviously, I was looking for Mr. Right,” she said.

What seniors are looking for in a romantic partner tends to differ from their younger counterpart, too, said Luccia Sacco, executive director of Lifelong.

“I tend to think it’s more about companionship and having someone to do things with.” Sacco said.

Sacco said there is a desire for companionship in old age likely because when a person is retired, widowed, divorced, etc., it can mean a loss of a long-held purpose that, if not addressed, can lead to social isolation.

“We think it’s a big issue,” Sacco said. “It can definitely have a detrimental effect on your wellbeing, certainly your physical health, your emotional health.”

One solution to that isolation is what Posluszny learned – get out, meet new people and make new friends. Ithaca Sociable Singles is one way to do that.

The group meets on a weekly basis for activities like group dinners, horseback riding, hiking and more. Socialization without the necessity of romance is common in the group, Posluszny said.

“We’re more independent because we’ve been around a long time on our own, so a lot of us in that age group would like to go places and do things, but we don’t necessarily want to have it be a couple,” she said.

Lifelong members get similar benefits from their activities, Sacco said.

“They’re active and they’re engaged, and we think that’s a really important part of growing older well,” Sacco said. “They recognize that it’s an important issue, but they’re doing something about it.”

If you’re over 55, single and looking to mingle, Sacco and Posluszny offered some advice – go out and spend time with people socially through groups like the Ithaca Sociable Singles. Use sites like Our Time to meet new people, and specify whether you’re looking for romance or friendship, Posluszny added. In addition, plan and attend events within your abilities.

“There’s certain things that I used to do that I physically can’t anymore,” she said. “When you’re in your 20s, generally, people don’t have those kinds of impediments.”

Above all, look out for yourself. Spending time with other people that care about you – whether that is romantic or not – can have an uplifting effect on your self-esteem, Sacco said.

“Having a reason to get up in the morning … and see some people, that’s really what it’s all about,” Sacco said.

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