Love in any decade
From lifelong partnerships to online dating, it’s never too late for romance.
It was a beautiful day for a wedding. The bride wore blue and white and the groom was dapper in a suit. And as they kissed on the steps outside their wedding venue, there was no denying the newly-wed glow. Now, there’s nothing particularly out of the ordinary when it comes to traditional nuptials but on this occasion, the couple in question were George Kirby, 103 and Doreen Luckie, 91, tying the knot in England, after a 27-year courtship. On his proposal, Kirby joked, “I didn’t get down on one knee, because I don’t think I would have been able to get back up.”
Despite sharing 194 years between them (and setting a Guinness World Record as the oldest couple in the world ever to marry), it’s a heartwarming reminder that you’re never too old to get romantically involved. According to the 2015 Australian Wellbeing Index, being part of an intimate relationship is one of the most vital components of happiness, with Australians over the age of 55 the most contented cohorts.
“For many people, without the cares or stresses of work and where children have well and truly flown far from the nest, this is a time when couples can come back together to enjoy an intimate life,” says Sydney-based psychotherapist, Marie Rowland (talking-matters.com.au). “We know from social matchmaking websites that many older Australians are still very interested in romantic partnerships. Much of this has to do with the fact that at this stage in life, companionship and romance can be a great combination. The agenda is different; you want a partner you can enjoy life with, not have kids with. So sex, travel and having fun is all up for grabs. Sexual expression at any age is vital in how we show love and also because it just feels good. Those who continue to enjoy sexual intimacy well into their older years tend to lead more vital and enjoyable lives.”
Of course, there’s more to intimacy than what goes on beneath the sheets. Companionship, connection and closeness are just as important. That’s according to a US study by Purdue University in Indiana, which found that valuing friendship in your romantic relationship helps create more love and greater sexual satisfaction. Rowland agrees. “The key to having a meaningful and satisfying romantic relationship is to stay totally connected – talk and remain interested in each other. Great relationships are habit-forming. Those couples who have engaged in strong emotional connection throughout their lives build up a great platform for later years when they do have time to actually spend with each other,” she says. “Displays of affection (not just having sex), holding each other's hands, being loving and maintaining a physical closeness helps with intimacy. Spend time doing the things you love doing together and never forget to remind each other of how you feel about each other. Attraction has to be worked at and this goes for any age.”
So what if you’re not currently in the throes of a romance? It’s never too late to meet someone. In the past decade, the dating landscape has shifted dramatically. Where once upon a time, meeting someone online was considered taboo – and not openly talked about – today, the explosion in dating sites, apps and social media platforms makes it inherently easier to meet somebody – no matter your age, sexual orientation or location. In fact, an investigation by the BBC found that Baby Boomers are increasingly turning to the internet to find love, with 20% of 55 – 64 year olds meeting a partner this way.
One thing’s for sure, sexual satisfaction has no expiration date. According to recent Swedish research, between-the-sheets contentment increases with age. The study found that 60% of women and 70% of men are highly satisfied with their sex lives. Furthermore, sexual activity among 70-year-olds has increased from 12% to 34% for women, and from 47% to 66% for men since the 1970s. "A general sense of wellbeing, comfortable circumstances, good physical condition and vibrant mental health all contribute to sexual satisfaction," says author of the study, Dr. Nils Beckman. "The studies found that even people in their late 90s have sexual feelings. While unlikely to be active at that age, they talk about their sexual thoughts and dreams… Caregivers must be broadminded and open to the fact that love, desire and sexuality do not dissipate as people grow older.”
That’s not to say that all Baby Boomers (and beyond) are madly bed-hopping and swinging from chandeliers. Biologically, hormonal and physiological changes can have an impact on desire. While you should speak to your doctor if low libido is affecting your love life, Rowland suggests that maintaining health and wellbeing is vital when it come to having a satisfying sexual relationship, and that remaining physically active is key.
“Our biology affects our psychology – they are intertwined. So desire naturally wanes, not just because of being so habituated to each other but also because our biology no longer requires sexual relations to procreate,” she says. “We have to maintain a vitality both mentally and physically to trigger desire and intimacy.”
The good news is, that with age comes experience and with experience comes greater confidence to be upfront about what you want. No games, no facades, just love and honesty in it’s purest form. Which in itself, is a recipe for romance.