Age is an undeniable factor in life that colors who we are and how we are perceived in the dating world. As a bachelor for the last 5 years exploring computer-dating sites, age seems to be the overriding factor when deciding whether to take a step with someone. Most dating sites include basic information that always includes age, so prospective daters over 60 must decide how to mange that key to getting to "first base". My impression from informal conversations and being there myself is that 60 creates a major cut-off by saying you're "old" for anyone who is under 60, and 65 or older is like an iron barricade, since who would want to date their parent or grandparent? During my 5 years of computer dating I have noticed a large drop in responses from women 40-55 when I raised my age from 59 to 60 and even greater drop to "no response" when I went to 65.

My observation is that people in long-term relationships see their partner partially through younger eyes, since their early impressions linger and influence current perceptions, as they travel in the same cohort through time. For example, having been in two 18-year marriages, both wives always looked like the person I first became involved with. But now, being over 65 and meeting women of similar age, I must admit that they resemble my mother more then a "sweet" young thing that the boy in me finds attractive.

Readers of my July 19th blog "What Do Men & Women Really Want?' made excellent points that need to be addressed in any age-related dating discussion. A main female response was that the items I listed as factors related to getting to "first base" were youth-oriented and superficial. One responder said that if men are so fixated on youthful features, then it is probably not worth it for older women, as the cost to one's dignity and self-respect was too high to continue in the dating game.

A response to this important comment requires a more nuanced overall look at age across natural age groups. Pre-teens and teens tend not to associate with each other and so on. Each age group has it's own priorities and desires to associate with members with similar interests. When in the 20s and 30s, child bearing is, of course, a major priority that brings men and women together. Now what about over 60, when we are still healthy and interested in sex, but sort of out-of-sync with societal expectations? In the old days we were less healthy and expected to settle into "retirement" where we spend our golden twilight years in rocking chairs.

Let's face it - even with Viagra-type medications, the old bull's testosterone is diminishing and the flesh is somewhat less willing. Men may need to separate sex and connection to make the tough transition to become "age appropriate". Men over 60 may be more successful if they have enough courage to flip the priorities and begin with a search for warmth, understanding, support and common interests, the qualities of a dear friend. The good news is that there are trades in every transition and, as fellow blogger Debby Herbenick mentions, the research indicates that for older men, arousal tends to awaken from warmth and cuddling.

I believe that the deeper question we over-60 daters should be asking ourselves is not "Should we lie about our age?", but rather, "What are our expectations for dating?" This is something we each need to explore for ourselves, and we may need to adjust our expectations as we check in with the dating realities.

About the Author

Harry K Wexler

Harry K. Wexler, Ph.D. is a research and clinical psychologist and the director of the Center for Aging Sexuality and Meaning in New York City and Laguna Beach.

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