Two therapists fell in love in their golden years — what they say about senior dating, online platforms & why you should try it

The couple says dating opens up possibilities — and a chance at finding someone to spend your life with.

Dr. Gloria Horsley and Dr. Frank Powers fell in love in their golden years. Here's their advice. (Getty)
Dr. Frank Powers and Dr. Gloria Horsley fell in love in their golden years. Here's their advice. (Getty)

Five months after the death of her husband, Dr. Gloria Horsley started golfing through grief with a man she met while dating online. He eventually moved in with her, but their relationship came to an abrupt end after he ghosted her, leaving the house keys and a note on the counter.

"I was very hurt and angry at the time," Horsley said, a relationship therapist and psychotherapist in the U.S. "Then I felt I could do something about it; I learned so much being with him."

So, she decided to write a book for widows, including a chapter on online dating.

"(Dating) is full of ups and downs, but at least you're feeling things again…you're then motivated to do something about what you're feeling... like go on another date. It just opens up a huge amount of possibilities in your world," said Horsley, who didn't give up on dating or meeting new people.

Horsley and her partner Dr. Frank Powers, who's also a relationship therapist, have been together for two years after meeting on SilverSingles, an online dating platform for older adults. It has been a "miraculous" time as Powers pointed out — something the couple believes is possible for other seniors to have too.

On Valentine's Day, the couple released their book titled "Open to Love: The Secrets of Senior Dating," to encourage and help seniors navigate the dating scene, and learn how to find love again.

"There are plenty of people out there... and online dating is one of the resources available to them now that was not available to them 30 years ago," Powers said.

"If you're retired and you've got a more limited number of people you come in contact with, you do need something that's going to introduce you to people who you wouldn't normally meet, who are going to be good candidates," he added.

Why should seniors go back to dating?

Even though there are plenty of seniors looking for companionship, Powers said nobody mentions or talks about dating, be it online or otherwise. "People talk about joining a bingo group or getting a dog. A dog is wonderful, but it's not enough," said Powers. "Loneliness is the number one mental health issue."

Loneliness and isolation in seniors have been linked to an increased risk of strokes, dementia, coronary heart disease, cancer mortality and premature death. Statistics Canada reported in July 2023 that almost one in five Canadian seniors (19 per cent) aged 65 and older reported experiencing loneliness in 2019 and 2020.

"People who are in a relationship in their 60s, 70s and 80s live longer, so it's a very healthy and wonderful thing," said Powers.

A dog is wonderful, but it's not enough.Dr. Frank Powers

According to Dr. Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz, directors of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, having close and healthy relationships, much like exercise and healthy eating, can have an impact on how long someone lives. It's a phenomenon both experts explore in their book called "The Good Life: Lessons from the world's longest scientific study of happiness."

Amy D'Aprix, a Canadian gerontological social worker who operates a consulting practice, tells Yahoo Canada people who have good social support are less likely to end up in a nursing home. "That support has also been shown to have a protective factor against Alzheimer's disease," D'Aprix said, a fact also backed by the Alzheimer's Association.

The association stated, "social engagement is associated with reduced rates of disability and mortality, and may also reduce risk for depression. Remaining socially active may support brain health and possibly delay the onset of dementia."

D'Aprix added dating is about people seeking social support.

What are the challenges of dating as a senior?

D'Aprix said people assume seniors never want to have sex, which 'isn't true, but is still a huge stereotype." There's also the stereotype of seniors being rigid and not flexible enough.

"There is the idea that people are content that they've already had love and romance and they don't need it anymore... but we need connection and affection," the expert claimed.

Horsley added some women may also not want to date again because they "don't want to be a nurse or a purse" for a man — but it doesn't have to be that way.

"You can talk to people in advance that you want their kids to take care of them if they have health problems and what you're willing to do," said Horsley. "You don't have to do the same thing in this new relationship when you're a senior. You can change the paradigm."

Dr. Frank Powers and Dr. Gloria Horsley bonded over their love for golf among other things. (Getty)
Dr. Frank Powers and Dr. Gloria Horsley bonded over their love for golf among other things. (Getty)

How to begin dating again in your golden years

Horsley and Powers agreed the first principle in reentering the dating scene as a senior is to not give up as it will be a process, and a connection may not be found on the first date.

"You do need to learn to become a good consumer and learn how to use the process of dating and become an expert," Horsley explained.

The couple also suggested having a "dating buddy," like a grandchild or a friend who has experience with dating at an older age. "Don't go into your head alone," Powers advised. "Have some people who are going to support you through the good times and help keep your spirits up."

Dating is full of ups and downs, but at least you're feeling things again.Dr. Gloria Horsley

When it comes to online dating too, D'Aprix said safety is number one. Seniors should be very careful not to fall for scams, and having support is important in reducing the chances of that happening.

"Not all dating is online too. I would say let your friends know that you're interested in a relationship... or think about people in your past that you might have had a great connection with, but your lives went different directions," D'Aprix said. "It's not uncommon for people to get into relationships with people they dated or knew earlier in their life."

Horsley and Powers said it's important for older adults to look at what they really want in a partner. Horsley explained when a person is younger they might want to go on hikes more, travel to Europe or have kids, but at an older age, things have changed.

"Now you're saying I want someone who is financially responsible and takes care of their health," she said. "I knew I wanted somebody who golfs. I said (in my dating bio) 'if you don't golf, don't get in touch with me,' because really, why waste time?," she added.

At a much older age, the couple said a person doesn't have as much time and "you want to make sure you use it well."

"Don't see dates that don't go anywhere as failures. See them as almost experiences that you grow through and it gets you closer to knowing what makes you happy," Powers said. "You have to have some courage and persistence."

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