Judging from the questions I was asked after AARP's "Finding Love at 50+" panel in Las Vegas this spring, what happened in Vegas won't stay in Vegas after all. That's because the attendees really want to get out there and date again!
Among the first to approach me after the session was a woman in her late 60s. "How come all men want women my daughter's age?" she demanded. "Yet we can't be with younger men?"
"Not all of them do," I replied. "And we can." Three examples sprang to mind:
My husband, 15 months younger than I am, had dated only women about our age before meeting me.
My sister, age 70, has a partner 14 years her junior.
A divorced friend, organizing a fundraiser 12 years ago, innocently flirted with the younger-by-seven-years florist she hired for the event. The two of them have been happily living together for 10 years now.
"The rules have changed," I told her. "Many men find women their own age or older to be more confident — and sexier. You seem lively, smart. Find a man who wants a smart, lively companion, not a youngster or a visiting nurse."
Had the man behind her heard me utter the word "sexier"? I'm not sure, but he wanted my advice on the best time to have sex in a new relationship.
"Probably later than you think," I told him. "And certainly later than you wish." I stressed the importance of going slowly, of getting to know the other person well. "Sex colors everything," I said. "I would urge you not to rush: Hold off … wait … you'll both be glad you did."
Next to approach was a man in his mid-60s. His wife had been in a psychiatric hospital for the past six years, he explained. For years before that, he had been devoted to her — accompanying her to doctors' appointments, administering her medications, handling all aspects of her care. Now, it looked as if she would never be discharged and that the hospital might remain her permanent home.
Then he cut to the chase: "Is it OK for me to date?"
I hesitated, because that "for better or for worse / in sickness and in health" part of the marriage vows was echoing through my mind, and I'm a big fan of loyalty at all costs. But as I looked into his eyes and listened to him speak, I saw a kind, down-to-earth person. He had given his wife everything he could, I believed, and he deserved to go on with his life, be it dinner dates and movies or a partner.
"Why not?" I finally replied.
"How do I get started?" He said he lived in a small town and did not know any women.
"How about posting a profile on a dating site?"
He looked away, then back at me. "What do you think I should say?"