Finding and exploring relationships can be challenging when you're older
A group of women sitting at a Rochester coffee shop were listening closely. Christine “Cricket” Ronan was giving them tips on how to get back in the datinggame“Don’t give them any information about yourself!” advises the 50-year-old Brighton interior designer and mother of two grown children to other women over 45 who are looking for advice.Whether widowed, divorced or never married, women are trying to define how they want their next relationships to look — if they can find someone to date — and how to define the dating terrain. They want to set some guidelines for themselves before they meet someone.Some are meeting people at dinner parties or at bars that cater to middle-aged clientele. Others are comfortable with online dating services such as LocalSeniorMatch.com and Seniorsmatch.net
.Carmen Coleman, 51, a Fairport financial planner divorced for 12 years, has been dating for two years. She’s decided against the online route because she says she can’t get a true picture of what a person is like.“It’s too risky to initially meet someone online,” says Coleman, who has three children, ages 16, 19 and 25. “Meeting through a mutual friend is OK. It takes two years of dating someone to really know them.”She met one man at work, another at church (who later reached out to her via Facebook). She, like many others, likes for a first date to be in a public place. She also is trying to reconcile old-fashioned ideals — for example, that the man pays the bill in most instances — with modern expectations.Although surveys continually show that more people meet potential partners at work than anywhere else, Ronan will not date co-workers because she says it could get too complicated.“If you want to enjoy working where you do, and have respect for your co-workers, it’s unfair to them when there are interoffice shenanigans,” says Ronan, who is divorced and has been dating again for two years.Instead, she prefers to rely on social activities with friends: “Just being out and about — going to a restaurant, dinner parties or weddings with friends and friends of friends.”
Yet for those who need some help, those on the dating scene suggest finding groups to join. That way, you meet someone with common interests LocalSeniorMatch.comhas at least 100 groups in the Rochester area, from dog owners to hikers, Spanish speakers or those interested in the paranormal. Go to localseniormatch.comand check the bottom of the page for activities this week.One Meetup group, Single Mingle, targets “single, widowed, divorced and married men and women who are over the age of 50.” It’s not a dating group but plans activities, keeping mobility issues and interests in mind.“Senior Mingle fills a niche that hasn’t been filled before,” says co-organizer Peg Todisco, 70, a retired kindergarten teacher. The group has more than 100 members who pay a $5 fee to join.Another, Parents Without Partners, is for people over 45.Rochester Fun Raisers (hotmaturewoman.org) targets those 40 and older.Cultural groups and events also can provide some people a comfortable meeting place.Stacey Bershod, 51, of Rochester enjoys visiting the Garden Vibes concerts at George Eastman House in the summer, where guests bring picnics, blankets and lawn chairs.“You can sit with a group or by yourself and feel comfortable,” says Bershod, a human resources professional, who adds that dating in your 50s and 60s is much different from dating in your 20s and 30s.“I also have looked at Match.com and should try it,” Bershod says. “But as my friend described it, it’s like a job — it’s like writing a book — and I have to determine how much time I want to put into it. It has been successful for two of my friends who are now married to someone they met on Match.”When people are older, relationships are more complicated. Both people bring emotional baggage, family obligations and financial obligations, plus differing ideas, and possible concerns, about sexual performance, says Anne Graham, 63, a mentalhealthcounselor and a divorced mother of a 26-year-old from Penfield.
Graham finds going out with groups of friends the most comfortable way to meet men. She believes that the best way to start “is by making single friends. That way, you have enjoyable people with whom to go out and explore old favorite activities and try new ones. You have to create a new life based on being single — and that takes effort, but it’s fun and exciting.”Brighton social worker Miriam Gale also recommends pursuing interests and activities that are enjoyable, not that you feel will lead to a date. Finding a sense of self — and approaching relationships with confidence and integrity — are easier when you are in a comfortable situation and a must for successful dating.Gloria Morgan, 55, of Rochester, the mother of three grown children and a school administrator, started dating in 2009 after her divorce was final.“I didn’t want to play a game; I just didn’t have time for it,” she says. “I had phone contact — mainly on the phone —– with several men. Two were face to face.”These contacts defined what she did not want, she says. She decided she wanted her dating to be about companionship, “someone to see the movies with.”“I think the biggest challenge for older people who are dating,” she says, “is that you’re set in your ways. You have to be willing to adjust and change.”