By 2020 it is projected that more than half the UK population will be over 50 and with divorce rates in Britain at a record high, an increasing number of people over the age of 50 are finding themselves newly single, placing them in daunting and unfamiliar territory. Yet according to cognitive neuroscientist Dr Lynda Shaw, the over 50s are happily getting back into the dating scene and are seizing the chance to embrace an exciting opportunity far better than their younger counterparts.
Shaw explains that those in their mature years have a wealth of life experience and acquired skills that help them on their dating adventures: “When we are over 50, we will have experienced some serious highs and lows whether it be bereavements, divorces, illnesses, ageing, children, careers, travel…you name it. As a result, we are more comfortable in our skin and know who we are and what exactly we like and don’t like. When you know who you are, you will be better placed to find a partner who matches you perfectly.”
Shaw explains that those looking for love in their older years do so in the context of connection rather than situation: “It might sound rather cutthroat but when we are younger and looking for a partner we place more emphasis on the other person in terms of investment; we judge a partner by their prospects – will they be able to provide for me financially? Can they provide me with a family? Will they keep me interested?
However, those over the age of 50 are going to have completely different requirements. They are not looking to start a family, or build a home. Instead they are looking for companionship. Human beings after all are social creatures. We feel more secure and loved when we have a significant other. In our 50s plus we are less worried about what a potential partner can do for us but look for someone we can just have fun with and enjoy.”
With the over 50s accounting for 80% of the UK’s wealth, according to Shaw, dating in your 50’s should feel fun, free from the weight of expectations. However, many of this age group still find the idea of dating extremely daunting: “Whilst we know the 50s plus are pretty confident, most people of this age who are starting to date again are likely to be doing so due to either divorce or bereavement of their previous partner which is likely to have left them very bruised and fragile.
Added to that, many will have not dated someone new for several decades, and thus they feel out of the loop. For example, I have spoken to men who say they don’t know whether it is now seen as un-PC and sexist for the man to offer to pay on the first date. Gender stereotypes these days are much more blurred and it leaves many of the mature generation confused about what part they are expected to play. There are obstacles to overcome.”
Perhaps the most anxiety though, according to Shaw, is reserved for sex. “Sex is not just for the young, despite taboos and what the media like to portray.” In a recent survey carried out by Relate of over 50’s, more than a third (37%) think that sex is still at least as important as it used to be but more than a third (34%) of those surveyed said they were dissatisfied with their sex lives, whilst only 22% said they were very satisfied.
Dr Shaw says: “Just because we hit 50, it does not mean that our sex drive disappears out the window. Many will continue to have a healthy libido well into their 70’s and beyond!” However, this does cause great anxiety in those new to dating later in life. “Let’s be honest here. As we age, gravity does take hold of our bodies.
“We may no longer feel as attractive and become very self-conscious about our imperfections. It can become a barrier to progressing in a relationship. Just break through the taboos and talk about what works for both of you. Just remember, however many flaws you think you have, so will your new partner! Ageing affects us all. We all get wrinkles, we all get grey hair.
“Learn to have confidence about the amazing person you are, having survived many things, with stories to tell and experiences to share. You have a depth and commitment that only comes with time. Believe in yourself, and know that you are deserving of love and passion too.”
by Dr Lynda Shaw – www.drlyndashaw.com
If you would like help in finding a new relationship in later life the Mature Guide to relationships, love and sex is full of advice and guidance to help you find a new partner in life.