AS I SEE IT
With Valentine’s Day less than two weeks away, love is already in the air for early birds with twigs in their beaks and mating in mind as they fly past my window. Love is in the air too for some Noughty folk (those with a good few birthdays ending in noughts under their belts) as they answer Cupid’s call.
Last weekend football legend Mick O’Dwyer made front page news when at 86 he married his partner Geraldine McGirr (65). I guess the headlines had as much to do with his celebrity as a successful Gaelic football manager as with the way the romantic pair had found love again in late life. The same week even noughtier astronaut Buzz Aldrin at 93 tied the knot with his sweetheart Dr Anca Faur (63). The first man to walk on the moon in 1969, with Neil Armstrong, Aldrin still lags a whole decade behind George Kirby (102) who plans to marry Doreen Luckie (91) when he celebrates his 103 birthday next June, The pair have been been dating for only 30 years.
Now I am not quite in the same league as these lotharios (my partner and I have collected a few more than a dozen noughts to our combined ages,) but I applaud the way these silver sweethearts believe that falling in love doesn’t come with a use-by date stamped on it. “What’s age got to do with it?” as O’Dwyer quipped while Kirby joked that he didn’t get down on his knees when he popped the question to Doreen for fear he wouldn’t get up again.
Late love can take you by surprise. It certainly did me, as I had more or less accepted that I would be alone after I lost my husband. I had internalised what I once heard when researching a story about dating agencies that no woman over 50 need apply. Men weren’t interested, I was told. Thank heavens that kind of attitude has faded away judging by the number of romance-seeking ladies and gents in their 60s and 70s WTM (willing to meet) the opposite sex on pages like the Senior Times Meeting Place.
That instant charge of erotic interest doesn’t necessarily turn off with passing years. I first saw my beloved when he, back view, was searching a crowded bar for a seat. That intriguing man is going to come and sit beside me, I told myself, fixing my eyes on the back of his collar. And he did. An hour and a half later we were still talking. We spoke everyday on the phone for two months while he volunteered overseas before getting locked down together and we have been together ever since.
Since then I have heard of a good few late life romances: old flames rekindled, chance encounters that have led to lasting liaisons, dating agency successes. The beauty of being a certain age when this happens is that you have a choice in how you become happy ever after: be it in partnerships, keeping separate homes or marrying a second time around. The triumph of hope over experience as Oscar Wilde put it. Buzz Aldrin is certainly very hopeful as this will be his fourth trip up the aisle.
Taking the plunge back into the mating game can be a bit daunting, though, when you haven’t been on a date for decades. I do notice many older people — especially women — who are suddenly single again, whether through bereavement or divorce, and who remain on their own. They may be perfectly content that way with children, grandchildren and a good social network around them but there are others who may be lonely. Almost one third of adults aged 50+ in Ireland experience emotional loneliness at least some of the time and 7.0% often felt lonely, according to TILDA, Trinity’s Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing.
A shame to be lonely if they are held back by lack of confidence or misplaced ideas about the social acceptability of trying for second time around later in life. Jennifer Haskins of dating agency Two Is Company, who herself found love in her late 50s, is reassuring: “Age is only a number when it comes to finding someone special.”
True! I remember strolling hand in hand along the street with my partner when a twinkly bystander remarked: “Ah young love – there’s nothing to beat it!” And he had it nailed.
However old we are, love is ever young.