By Megan C. Wallgren
The Orem Senior Friendship Center hosts a Pioneer social that brings friends together. Top, Kitty Muranaka and John Bryner. Bottom, Ted Wells and Birgetta Teubner.
At her age Marsha McCune isn’t necessarily looking for a marriage partner, but she won’t count it out.
“I’m used to being on my own, but I’m not averse to having someone in my life,” says Marsha, a 64-year-old Springville resident.
Most of her dating counterparts have a similar attitude about marriage.
An AARP survey showed nationally only 8 percent of singles over age 40 are looking for marriage. Forty-nine percent of singles in this age group are looking for someone to talk to and do things with. Eighteen percent are looking to just have fun.
“Once bitten, twice shy,” is how Spanish Fork’s Richard Andrus describes it. A divorced father, Richard is in no hurry to tie the knot again. Just ask the woman he’s been dating for two years, he says.
Many women are cautious about men who seem anxious for a second or third marriage.
“They just want someone to take care of them,” says Marsha, who is in the fastest growing singles group nationwide and in Utah Valley — those over 50.
In dating, maturity has its advantages. The fact that older daters are in no hurry to get married can take the pressure off the situation. And having been around the block, older daters don’t throw the term “love” around like young daters do.
“Most of the time it starts out as just having fun, having someone to go and do things with,” Marsha says. “If there’s somebody out there for me to marry, we’ll find each other and it will be right.”
One of the biggest challenges for older singles is dealing with the baggage a dating partner brings into the relationship.
“Because most single people in mid and later life have been previously married (ending in divorce or death of spouse), most of these people date with a lot of history, unlike people in their twenties,” says Richard Miller, a BYU family science professor.
“In many cases, the dating partners knew each other when they were both married and eventually started dating when they found themselves single,” Richard Miller says.
Though blending two families together can be hard, the openness about the partners’ past lives can be advantageous.
“I think that is the biggest difference between dating in mid/later life and in young adulthood,” Richard Miller says. “Older people have so much history, having lived much of their life with another partner. I find, especially in terms of widowhood, that each partner should accept each other’s past life events and not try to whitewash it. In young adult years, it is taboo to talk about a former boyfriend or girlfriend. With older couples, though, they realize that they were married to someone else for a long time and they are open to accept that as part of the person they are dating.”
Richard Andrus says to find the type of people you want to date, go to places where the kind of person you want to meet would be.
He met his girlfriend through the LDS Single Adult Choir.
He liked being able to get to know her one-on-one at practices each week before he asked her out.
“Otherwise I wouldn’t have gone out on that limb,” he says.
Marsha meets men at single adult dances, in community classes, at single adult conferences, on single adult cruises and through the occasional blind date.
“If you want to meet other people you have to go where they are, but you have to go not to find a man, but to get to know people,” she says.
Classes from oil painting to tai chi held at community centers also attract the older single set.
The Internet is also fast becoming a new avenue for senior singles to meet. Thirdage.com and seniorfriendfinder.com are a couple of sites dedicated strictly to the over 40 crowd.
Match.com reported an 88 percent increase in its number of members over age 50 in the last year.
Locally, LDSSingles.com and UtahSingles.com have also seen an increase in members over 50.
“Interest has increased,” says Chantry Brewer of LDSSingles.com. “Customer service reps are talking to more older people with questions about the service.”
Popular places for seniors to go on dates or just to meet people include activities sponsored by church groups or community senior centers.
Vi Herrin of the Provo Eldred Senior Center said sponsored outings to pageants and plays are very well attended.
The Wednesday free movie night and Tuesday night live band dances are also favorite activities.
Anything involving food is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
“They love the lunches and picnics,” Vi says.
Richard Andrus has advice for senior daters.
“Make lots of good friends,” he says. “You have to be good friends before you can be good lovers.”
Marsha’s advice to fellow daters is to be up on current events and know how to take care of yourself.
“Create your own happiness,” she says. “Be happy because you’re you.”