From the archives: Candid interviews with single seniors

Photo by Esther Ann on Unsplash

From time to time, we will visit the Wayback Machine to read stories from The Senior Times archives. This story by Barbara Moser was published in February 1989.

Dating is a tough ball game at any age. You’ve got to know how to pitch the ball, catch it, and not strike out. And you’ve got to know when to run. The direction that you run in, of course, is up to you, and for many single seniors, it’s not always a clear decision. 

I talked with seniors at the Creative Social Centre and the Golden Age Association about being single.

A large majority of single seniors are widowed. The men seem quite happy as bachelors. They “play the field” and shy away from women who push too hard. They seem to prefer the company of women to men, and enjoy the freedom to date whomever they choose.

The women are generally not interested in commitments either, but they like to go out with men because there are places they can’t go alone and because they enjoy their company. Marriage doesn’t interest them much because they don’t want to get into a situation where they are serving a man, something they’ve done most of their lives. 

All the women interviewed are widows and while they find that in itself is a difficult situation, they enjoy their freedom.

The people interviewed have little trouble actually meeting members of the opposite sex. They belong to the seniors’ association and enjoy the companionship of men and women in a social and creative atmosphere.

Joe, 87, and Bessie, 67, discussed their relationship.

“There are moments when you appreciate being single and other times when you don’t,” Joe says. “Bessie and I have a lot in common. She gives me friendship and understanding. It’s very good at my age to know you have someone you can call up and she’ll understand you.”

Joe feels that the age difference between them doesn’t mean a thing. “What means something is the understanding, the feeling, the trust in each other,” Joe says. “I would advise all seniors not to be alone and not to have pity on themselves because they are alone.

“I was married twice and I had two good wives. When I met Bessie, I wasn’t looking for marriage but for a good companion. I have a family but they have themselves to think about. If I don’t feel well, I call Bessie up.”

“We’re singles but we’re living apart,” Bessie says. “And that’s what makes it interesting. Sometimes he comes to visit me and sometimes I go to visit him. We see each other mostly in the centre.”

Joe interjects: “And it’s a great love on the telephone.” Bessie agrees.

Magda, 80, has been a widow since 1970 and still finds it difficult. “I could never find anyone like my husband. Men sometimes want to go out with me.” A friend once told Magda that a widower was interested in her. Her reply was: “Tell him I don’t like to cook.”

And this is the reason Magda is not interested in a serious relationship with a man. “A man wants to be served,” she says. 

Edward, 67, is a bachelor and wants to keep it that way. He goes out dancing and skiing with women.

“I’m too happy being single. I’m not looking for a wife,” he says. Some women call Ed to ask him out, but he says he’s not interested in the ones that call him. “I can meet women on my own. I go to places where the selection is eight or 10 women to every man. So why should I commit myself?”

Hy is an exception in that he’s married, although he was 56 when he finally popped the question.

“I was happy before. I lived with my brother. When he died, I felt it. I met my wife and after four years we got married. It’s the greatest thing I ever did. She was a widow with two girls, and it’s really a wonderful thing.” Hy’s advice to his bachelor friends is to “find a nice woman.”

Helen, coordinator at the Creative Social Centre, feels that although many senior women are alone, they can still structure their lives to accommodate this fact of life. “The chances of matching up with someone may not be good at all.”

Sam had a good marriage for 47 years. He enjoyed talking to his wife, and he says they never exchanged harsh words. He’s been a widow for two years. He’s had calls from women but he “can’t see other women. I would compare other women to her, the things she did, the way she prepared her food … she could always read my mind.”

Sam says he manages very well alone. He feels he couldn’t go over to a woman’s house for dinner because it just wouldn’t be the food he likes. One of his friends at the centre tried to “fix up Sam with a woman.” It was unsuccessful.

Hy has been trying to get his friend, who is a widow, connected with a woman. Hy says his friend only takes them out once. Why? Because “every woman must be the same as his wife who passed away.”

Are the women anxious to get married? Belle says most of the women she knows don’t want to get married again.

When Jack lost his first wife, he didn’t go out for five years. “I was scared. The first date I was really scared.” The women feel they are also afraid to go out with someone the first time.

Edith feels that seniors should have nothing to fear from meeting one another and going out. “After a certain age, you don’t care any more. You do what you think is good for you.” Edith would not consider getting married again. “Marriage is very demanding. I want to please myself first. I had all of it. I know what to expect. The man benefits in a marriage. From every point of view.”

A woman has companionship, but she needs a lot of attention. Men by nature are selfish. But they are not to blame. They  bring to their marriage what their mothers teach them.”

Harsh words, some men would say. But the fact is neither the men nor the women I spoke with are ready to dash into a long-term relationship. The men, however, do have an unfair advantage as far as the ratio of women to men, and this shows in their confidence and “happy-go-lucky” attitude about dating.

Both sexes enjoy their freedom. The ratio is on the side of the men and they know it. Both the Creative Social Centre and the Golden Age Association are places where men and women can meet and enjoy activities and discussions together and still enjoy the freedom of independence.

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