Ah, love! Spring is in the air, and so many of our thoughts naturally turn to romance. Perhaps you remember that first awkward teenage infatuation or the tumultuous dating years of your twenties. Maybe you eventually found “the one” and raised a family with them – or are still trying to do so.
One of the things many people say they want from love is “someone to grow old with.” Unfortunately, the reality is that many spouses outlive one another in their later years. This possibility can leave the remaining spouse grieving for a long time – not just for the loss of their partner, but for the loss of general companionship. It’s a myth that older adults don’t think about romance. If a caregiver to an older adult, it’s important to stay up-to-date regarding aging education and learn as much as you can about the complexities surrounding this still-relevant part of their lives.
It’s never too late to fall in love
Believe it or not, more older adults are finding love than ever – even marriage – when they’re over age sixty-five. The need for socialization does not disappear with age. In fact, older adults (particularly those who are homebound) can suffer serious mental, physical, and emotional consequences if isolated for too long.
Remember – your client or loved one is a multifaceted person who has many different sides to their personality, some of which you’ve never witnessed. They are unique individuals with their own hopes and desires for the future – including the possibility of finding love!
Seeking love, finding meaning
Romance and love can provide more than just an exciting whirlwind of emotions. After the initial thrills settle down, something deeper and more meaningful often emerges. Since many older adults may have already lost a lifelong spouse or partner, finding a special person again can bring profound happiness and help to fill the void their companion left.
Of course, a key step toward finding this happiness for homebound older adults is getting out of the house in the first place. As a caregiver, you need to help them look for these opportunities. One intriguing possibility is an adult day club, where older adults can easily socialize with their peers.
Don’t discourage affairs of the heart
There is one more surprising element to helping older adults find romance: you! As a caregiver, you are in a unique position to either help or hinder a golden years’ romance. Sometimes, the hindering occurs because our own unconscious thoughts interfere with the process.
For instance, many caregivers ignore the topic of older adult romance because it makes them uncomfortable. However, this reaction has the potential to do a great disservice to those in your care. First, if the possibility of a romantic life goes unacknowledged, you may miss opportunities to help an older adult meet new people. In that case, they may not get to enjoy that kind of socializing simply because it’s never considered. Second, they may get the false impression that you do not support their desire to be independent and to seek out what brings them contentment and joy.
You definitely want the older adult you care about to feel at ease talking with you on this topic. If you’re a medical provider, you may need to advise them on how to protect their health while being sexually active. They may also have questions about changes in their bodies, and how that affects their physical relationship. If you’re the son or daughter of an older adult, however, it’s understandable if this is an awkward conversation! In that case, you’ll likely want to set up an appointment for a loved one with their primary care physician.
Romance, love, and even sex are natural parts of a person’s life at any age. Try to encourage the growth of this healthy (and fun) chapter in someone’s life story by being open-minded. Take whatever practical steps you can to help your loved one or client find happiness in their own way.
Interested in more aging education?
The needs of older adults – romantic and otherwise – are constantly changing. As new studies, techniques, and methodologies become available, it’s important to stay up-to-date on aging education. Click here for other topics related to geriatrics so you can help older adults find romance, a home health aide, or whatever else they need to be happy!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.