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Love, Dating and Marriage Still Goals for Older Americans


Ah, young love! It's written about, sung about, idealized. But what about old love? People now live longer and healthier and want to be happier. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, a growing number of people are falling in love and embarking on deep and fulfilling romantic relationships in the latter part of their lives.

Writer Alison Leslie Gold was approaching 50 when her marriage ended in divorce. But a new chapter of her life began when she met the true love of her life, and married him. She has been living happily ever since.

To her surprise, she says, she found she wasn't alone. "I began to talk to people who had experiences with finding sex and love later in life. I interviewed nearly 30 or so and talked to many more," she says. "They are men and women between the ages of 43 and 97, (people of) various religions, various races and various nationalities."

Twenty-five of these stories ended up in Gold's new book: Love in the Second Act: True Stories of Romance, Midlife and Beyond. "They are stories of people who lived their lives one way in the first half, and in the second half live their lives in a different way," she says.

One woman, she says was a nun and a nurse until her late 30s, when she left the nunnery to get married, although she continued to be a nurse.

Other stories are about people who, after many years of focusing mainly on challenging careers, suddenly long for romantic relationships. Gold describes one woman, who worked for the United Nations in Belgium as a "workaholic." She says, "When she started hitting her mid 50s, she started feeling loneliness she never had before." The woman started dating and "ended up in a very nice relationship," the author says.

Not all of Gold's love stories begin after midlife. She includes her own parents as an example of people who stay in the same relationship for many decades. "It's very challenging, rediscovering and rekindling a relationship someone has been in for a long time, to keep it fresh and alive," she says. "It takes work, but it seems to be worth it as my parents seem to say after 65 years."

But starting a brand new relationship later in life, Gold says, is no less challenging. Some re-enter the dating scene with bad memories of failed marriages. Others, she says, find it hard to forget lost loves. "A new beginning doesn't mean that it wipes out the past. I have a couple of cases of widows and widowers who will never replace the great love that died, but found another experience in a love that didn't duplicate or challenge the original one."

No matter how old people are, it is never too late to start a new relationship. That's what Marla Martenson discovered through her matchmaking service in Los Angeles, California. Martenson says one of her clients is 87. "He was heart broken because his wife of 50 years passed away. That was sad but he is dating somebody," she says. "There's always hope."

Martenson says her aunt, whose husband passed away 10 years ago when she was 50 found a man on line.

Martenson, who authored a book titled Excuse Me, Your Soul Mate is Waiting, says many people feel healthier and wiser as they get older. And they make better spouses. "It's true we do have a little drama when we get older, but then we also learn how to deal with it."

The matchmaker says she has been married to her second husband for five years. "I'm grateful I had all those bad experiences in the past because, now, I really know what I want and appreciate the husband I have and his qualities.

Though society seems to be more supportive of older lovers, writer Alison Leslie Gold says their children sometimes have a hard time accepting such relationships. She points to one coupled featured in her book. "She was 80 and he was in his 90s when they met. They were different religions. She had grown children and grandchildren. So did he. When they wanted to move back into his house, his children got very nervous."

She says young people are embarrassed by mature love, but Gold says, once they hit middle age they're more accepting. "It's not until you turn into that corner, into your late 30s or 40s, that you start to see around the corner and realize it's going to happen to you too."

Gold says life can be an exciting journey when it's shared with a loving companion. And the lucky people, she says, are those who find that companion before the journey comes to its end.

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