The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday April 11th

Chapel Hill dating and relationship seminar helps adults over 60 Wednesday

When it comes to older adults and dating, age ain’t nothing but a number.

Relationship expert Emily Gordon hosted a forum Wednesday at Flyleaf Books aimed at providing an approach for adults more than 60 years old who are looking to break into the dating scene but might be unsure about how to start.

“As a senior, I have met numerous other seniors, male and female, who are basically lonely,” Gordon said. “Partners divorce, partners die, and they look at approaching the future and get very upset about it.”

Gordon, who has hosted similar workshops in the past, said older adults often have a hard time initiating new relationships.

“They want to put someone in their life, and the topic isn’t always something they can reach out to other people about,” she said. “I’m trying to give people a venue to explore the idea of new relationships.”

Gordon, along with therapist Lane Anderson, spoke to adults at the discussion about the importance of establishing a strong emotional connection with a partner in later years.

Anderson, who also provided advice to married senior citizens, said keeping the element of romance alive is crucial no matter how old you are.

“If you ever give up on romance, you will become cynical — and that’s when you start getting old,” he said.

Gordon and Anderson also tackled the physical aspects of relationships among the elderly, something Gordon said younger generations often misconceive.

“There is a lot more there than, ‘Oh my God, my grandmother wants to have sex,’” she said. “There are so many complexities to relationships, and for some reason everyone thinks about sex.”

In a 2003 survey conducted by the AARP, men and women more than 50 years old were asked to identify the most important reason they were dating or interested in dating.

Of the 3,160 participants, 49 percent responded having someone to talk to or do things with was their number one priority, while six percent identified fulfilling sexual needs as the most important criterion.

Chapel Hill resident Rita Berman has been a widow for 17 years and said social interaction is important for elderly singles interested in dating.

“You need to be in some kind of social organization, whether it be a church organization or a learning organization. You can’t just stay at home,” she said.

Anderson said putting emotional needs first is the key to a healthy relationship at any age.

“I’ve asked women for twenty years if they’d rather spend a night with a George Clooney or a Brad Pitt, or one night being held and understood,” he said. “And every woman has said ‘the second one.’”

Gordon said she hopes young students will also find her perspectives relevant, adding informing young adults increases their understanding of the elderly and their relationships.

“If you open yourself up to younger people, you get more involved with life and learn things,” she said.

And fellas, in case you’re wondering, Gordon’s off the market.

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