Am I Too Old to Start Over Again?

Loneliness Is a Killer,” and evidence shows that loneliness can be hazardous to our health. It can cause everything from heart problems to dental problems and is more deadly than cigarette smoking or excessive drinking. And unfortunately, loneliness removes the motivation to take the one action that would lead to its demise: connecting with people. In that essay, I wrote, “The keys to fighting loneliness are:

  1. Identifying with a larger social group
  2. Having frequent and unplanned interactions with others
  3. Having a chum with whom one can share the most painful of our conflicts”

Although online dating apps are used increasingly, most people meet their partners face-to-face. For many years, I have been associated with Prime Timers Worldwide, a social organization of mature gay and bisexual men with about eighty chapters, mostly in the United States and Canada. Its primary mission is to provide social opportunities for men. Des Moines, Iowa, where I live, has many other organizations: a breakfast club, a gay men’s chorus, gay bowling, country and western line dancing, and others. Try something out. If it doesn’t fit, try something else.

Dine-outs and dinner parties are good ways to engage, but often they are oriented to couples. One concept I love is “Nine to Dine.” The concept is that by having an odd number of people for dinner, singles are not only welcome but essential.

Although most couples get together outside of dating apps, the Pew Research Center polling in 2016 found that 15 percent of US adults report they have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps. Although young people use them more than older people, the numbers are growing for older people too. Online dating has lost much of its stigma, and a majority of Americans now say online dating is a good way to meet people.

One man in his early fifties who is just coming out of a heterosexual marriage has used online dating apps very successfully. I asked him about his experience and here is his response:

"For dating (i.e., not just hooking up), I really like OKCupid. It requires more work up front, with lots of questions to answer and pictures to post. But, it is well worth the effort. I also like it because it allows me (for an extra nominal fee) to go incognito, meaning only those I choose to see me can see me.Having said that, gay friends in less populated areas (especially rural areas) of the country tell me there aren’t enough gay guys nearby to justify its use. In those areas, they may have no choice but to use Grindr (which is geared more towards hookups) or Tinder (mainly for straight but also for gay).Match.com is also okay and may have more users, depending on the location.

Are you too old? As I wrote in this essay in Psychology Today, “The Curse of an Attraction to Older Gay Men”:

"Former Pennsylvania Senator Harris Wofford . . . at ninety years old [married] Matthew Charlton, his forty-year-old lover, whom he had been together with for fifteen years. Senator Wofford had spent nearly half a century married to his wife, Clare, who died when they were both almost seventy.

I have heard stories like this over and over. In every case, the man who’d been left alone had to take the first steps. The bottom line in all of this is “you don’t get the butt you want if you don’t get off the butt you have.” It means taking some risks, making yourself vulnerable. It means taking some action.

A version of this post was previously published on lorenaolson.com and is republished here with permission from the author.

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