In 1958, two years before Michele Rossi was born, the women’s magazine McCall’s ran an article titled “129 Ways to Get a Husband,” in which eligible females were urged to scan the obituaries for new widowers and have their “car break down at strategic places.”
Rossi took a more measured approach—“dating sites, meeting people’s brothers”—but was still single when she hit 50. While she didn’t pursue dating as vigorously as she did when she was younger, she remained open to relationships.
One in three baby boomers—people born between 1946 and 1964—is single, according to the U.S. Census. For LGBTQ+ people over 60, 42% are single, says a Met Life study. Yet only 14% of all singles between the ages of 57 and 85 are in a dating relationship, according to research in the Journal of Marriage and Family. The others either aren’t interested, have given up or are still looking for a significant other.
For Rossi, serendipity struck. She bumped into Paul Gildea, a former classmate from St. Mark’s High School in Wilmington, in the waiting room for a cardiologist, where she had taken her dad for an appointment.
“I had a crush on him when I was a teenager,” she recalls.
That night, they both hit the internet trying to learn more about each other. Gildea found her first, through Facebook, where he was delighted to learn she was single. A year later, they tied the knot and now live happily in Claymont. Rossi is glad she didn’t give up on love.
“Dating can be discouraging when we get older,” she says. “But if what you want is a committed relationship, go after it. You’re not going to get a hit if you don’t take a swing at the ball.”
Sherri Latchford, 60, is still looking. The mother of two was divorced at 25 and had several long-term relationships over the next 15 years. More recently, she’s made a concerted effort to find kindred spirits through movie groups, wine tastings, hikes and volunteer work.
“I’ve gone online, I’ve done speed dating, I’ve gone to icebreaker events at bars. …The only thing I haven’t tried is a matchmaker,” she says.
She’s active and successful, with a thriving career in IT and a condo in Florida. Yet for the past two decades, Latchford hasn’t dated anyone seriously. Close women friends who go back to her years at St. Elizabeth School in Wilmington help keep her social calendar full. Latchford is the only one who is single.
“Once you hit 45, the guys start drying up. They want younger women,” she points out.
Latchford’s wish list has evolved, too. She has gotten pickier. She wants a well-adjusted man who is financially independent. She doesn’t see herself as a caretaker or a maid.
“At this age, you’re dating for completely different reasons than in your 20s and 30s, when you’re looking for someone to live life with,” she notes. “Now, I would love to be with somebody. But I don’t need to be with somebody.”
In the senior dating pool, many women feel washed up while men are showered with potential mates. Among unmarried Americans 55 and older, there are about 57 men per 100 women. That’s a distinct shift from singles age 30 to 34, where there are 121 men to 100 women.
When Ken James got divorced at 59, he recalled his younger days of competing for desirable women. He was happy to discover the tide has turned.
“I went to an over-55 singles event at a bar at the beach, and there were 10 women for every guy,” he remembers. “Now the homecoming queens were coming after me.”
James connected with a middle school teacher through the dating app Plenty of Fish but soon cut bait. He tried again, “Another teacher—with a drinking problem.” His third relationship was a charm. James and his wife Adele have been married for 12 years.
“My advice to anyone who wants a partner is to keep at it, even though you might have to go through a few liars and losers. Finding a wonderful mate is worth the effort,” he says.
Susan Giris, a vibrant 82-year-old from Newark, is looking for a thoughtful, independent man between 75 and 85 years old. “I want somebody who gets me, likes who I am and is willing to contribute more than the bare minimum to a relationship,” she asserts. “The ideal partner is someone who contributes to your joy, your satisfaction with life.”
She divorced in her early 50s and has been dating for 30 years, finding other singles through classified ads before the advent of the internet. She enjoyed a six-year live-in relationship and has received several proposals of marriage. But she hasn’t met anyone she wants to spend her life with. And at this stage of the game, she’s no longer interested in marriage.
“In my 50s and 60s, I was still looking for a life partner. At 70, I was open to having someone to hang out with on weekends,” she says. “In my 80s, I have friends who are widows and took care of their husbands through long illnesses. They have convinced me that marriage at my age is not the way to go.”
For most of her working life, Giris was a psychologist. She remembers clients who lamented their single state. She thinks connecting with others is even higher on people’s wish lists than it was 20 years ago.
“Loneliness is more of a major topic now,” she says.
With friends, family and an active social life, Giris isn’t lonely. Still, she appreciates male energy and remains enthusiastic about dating.
“Even in my 80s, chemistry matters,” she says. “There’s still that feeling of looking at someone new across the table at a restaurant and thinking, hmm, I wonder what it would be like to kiss him.”