You're never too old to fall in love. First dates and new relationships are increasingly becoming a part of the retirement years. And now that the child-rearing years are largely behind them, baby boomers and seniors are forming new relationships on their own terms.
More than 30 million Americans age 55 and older are currently single. In some places, single seniors make up a significantly larger portion of the older population than others. U.S. News used Census Bureau data to come up with a list of metro areas with the most single seniors age 55 and over. Individuals who are separated, divorced, widowed, and never married are counted as single.
[In Pictures: The 10 Best Places for Single Seniors to Retire.]
Pittsfield, Mass. holds the distinction of being the only metro area where the majority of the 55-and-older population (52 percent) is single. Florence, S.C., where 49 percent of seniors are single, is a close second. (In every place on our list, more than 45 percent of the over 55 population is currently single.)
However, a large single population doesn't guarantee that dating will be easy. Single women significantly outnumber single men in every city on our list, primarily because of widowhood. For example, while there are 40,672 single men age 55 and older in the Memphis, Tenn., area, there are 87,432 single women in the same age range. "I am now 66 and can only name two single men—one I've known forever and is a friend, and the other prefers younger women," says Kathy Martin of Columbus, Ga., who has been dating since her divorce eight years ago. "I probably had 30 dates and met some very nice people, but now I've finally settled into a fun and full life with my many girlfriends." There are 20,779 single women age 55 and older in Columbus, but just 8,791 single men.
The key to dating in retirement is finding a place to meet new people. "When most people in your age group are not married, people meet in a face-to-face context," says Judith Sills, a clinical psychologist and author of Getting Naked Again: Dating, Romance, Sex, and Love When You've Been Divorced, Widowed, Dumped, or Distracted. "Once most of the population is married, people meet online, through introductions, and occasionally through repeated proximity at work or at the golf course."
Retiring in an area with nearby colleges, such as Jackson, Miss., or Springfield, Mass., allows plenty of opportunities to take a course and meet new people in class or at the library. Sometimes retirees can even get a break on tuition prices. For example, those age 60 and older qualify for half-price tuition at Tulane University's School of Continuing Studies in New Orleans.
Another popular strategy is to look up people from your past. Sometimes retirees form new relationships with people they knew in high school or college, typically during reunions or visits to their hometown. "Falling in love with someone you knew long ago is a very powerful aphrodisiac," says Abigail Trafford, author of As Time Goes By: Boomerang Marriages, Serial Spouses, Throwback Couples, and Other Romantic Adventures in an Age of Longevity. "They know how you started out and where you went in your life. It's brings a depth of knowing each other that you don't have with someone you've never met before."
Many seniors are also turning to online dating to meet new people. Websites including eHarmony and Match.com are reporting an uptick in older participants. The number of people between ages 50 and 65 who use Match.com to search for potential partners has increased 89 percent in the last five years. A quarter of all Match.com members are now in that age range.
Ilena Jordan, 50, of Miami spent several years dating after her divorce. "Dating in Miami after a certain age is very difficult unless you want to hang out at bars," she says. "How many 50-year-olds hang out at bars?" But then she met Fernando Barberena, 49, on Match.com in April 2008 and instantly clicked during a three-hour date at a sushi restaurant. "You don't have to go through the whole process of hanging out at bars," says Barberena of online dating. "This way you can actually weed through and meet a lot of people without investing tons of time and money on outings." The couple currently lives together and is engaged to be married.