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BEACON Senior News

Done being single?

Jan 29, 2024 02:41PM ● By Treva Brandon Scharf

Singles over 50, I’m not going to bore you by telling you that to survive and thrive in single life, you must love yourself first, or learn to be by yourself, or practice gratitude or any other dating platitude you’ve heard a million times. You’re of a certain age and know this already, and if you’ve been single long enough, you’re already well versed. 

It’s every dating coach’s mantra to be comfortable in your skin and good on your own—it’s what being an empowered single is all about. But after 50, you need to step it up.  

After 50, surviving and thriving is less about solitude and doing the inner work, and more about just getting out of the house. 

With fewer social outlets, our worlds have gotten smaller and more isolated. This means we must get resourceful, shake off complacency and kickstart ourselves into action. 

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, we have an epidemic of loneliness. It’s bad for singles in general, but for singles in midlife, it’s a real concern.

My three tips to surviving and thriving while single after 50 is really one tip: Make an maintain meaningful connections. There are three ways to do it:

1. Connect with and cultivate your friend circle, community, family and network. In other words, find your people. Lean on them, call on them, seek out their company and companionship. Reach out to old pals and make new ones. Stay in their loop and keep them in your fold. There are many reasons having to do with mental health, aging and wellbeing, that support the benefits of face-to-face, in-person interaction. As the old Playtex bra commercials used to say: Support can be beautiful, so don’t be afraid to seek it out.  

2. Identify the things that bring you joy, purpose and meaning. What are your hobbies and interests? Are there skills you’d like to learn, sports you’d like to take up, intellectual or cultural activities you’d like to participate in? There are faith-based groups, local classes, senior centers, volunteer opportunities and Meetup groups for almost everything, including art, music, social activism, pickleball, hiking, yoga, wine tasting, etc. Additionally, consider exploring dog parks, home improvement stores, driving ranges, and even jury duty as opportunities to meet and connect.

3. Start flirting—or at least, remember how. Put your phone down and take a break from the dating apps. Look up and catch someone’s eye. Both men and women need to practice making eye contact, smiling and being receptive. They need to remember how to meet organically without the help of a screen or an algorithm.

Speaking to the men who are reading this: Approaching a woman in public can be tricky since there’s so much mutual fear and distrust in the current dating climate. But if you approach in a respectful, non-threatening way, you might be successful. Be mindful of signals and signs; maybe ask permission first, then proceed with a nice word or compliment. If a woman looks away or says no thanks, believe her and move on. 

Newsflash for the ladies: Dating power dynamics have shifted, and it’s now perfectly acceptable for you to make the first move without looking too aggressive. You can start by striking up a mini conversation or asking a question or favor; chat with someone in line, say good morning, commiserate about something, share a laugh. All of these are welcoming ice breakers that give men (plus introverts and shy people) a safe path. Plus, it’s nice to be seen, heard and spoken to, regardless of gender. Think of it as doing your small part for humanity. 

Because dating the old-fashioned way seems so fraught these days, we need to make it a little easier for the guys. Meet them halfway. Be gracious. Show interest. If we don’t all learn to have compassion and tolerance for each other, nobody will survive the dating world. 

I say it “seems” so fraught, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s only as fraught as you make it. If your attitude about dating is dread and drudgery, guess what? Then that’s what it will become. 

As I said earlier, the good news for mid-lifers is that we’re not new at this. In fact, we’re old pros. Seasoned veterans. We’ve been around the block and know a thing or two. We’ve socialized and gathered and flirted once before, and we can do it again. All it takes is a little human contact. 

Treva Brandon Scharf is the product of divorce, an admitted commitment-phobe, serial dater and marriage first-timer at 51. Treva co-hosts the podcast Done Being Single with her husband Robby Scharf, a fellow late bloomer.