More Boomers dating than any previous
generation of older Americans; Many looking for companionship and sex,
but not necessarily marriage
Diane Barna, 51, had been in a committed relationship with the same man
for nearly a quarter of a century. When her longtime partner died last
year, she thought her romantic life was over.
"I knew what love was, and not everyone gets that lucky," says Barna, a
legal secretary who lives in Olmsted Falls, Ohio.
"I had a great job, a good circle of friends, a lot of interests, and I
thought I just wasn't going to settle for something in pants."
But now, Barna has been in a serious relationship for about six months.
"This is a good person, a good man, and I'm very comfortable," says
Barna of her new boyfriend. And the three-date rule? Not a problem. "At
our age," says Barna in Newsweek's February 20 cover story, "Sex & the
Single Boomer" (on newsstands Monday, February 13), "if sex presents
itself, if you're comfortable with your partner, why wait for three
Just go for it." Love at midlife is full of surprises.
As the oldest boomers turn 60 this year, more of them are single than any
previous cohort of forty- to sixtysomethings, reports Senior Editor Barbara
Kantrowitz. And while this generation's search for love and relationships is
anything but new, what has changed is how they meet, why they date and how
society responds. In this latest installment of its yearlong series
Boomer Files," Newsweek looks at the new world of midlife romance.
generation ago, older singles were out of the game, but now, boomers are
flaunting their sexuality. "It's a situation of enjoying what's there," says
Helen Gurley Brown, whose 1962 book "Sex and the Single Girl" ushered in a
new era of openness about women and desire.
is such an enjoyable activity at any age," says Brown, 83. "Why delegate it
only to the young?"
while they are looking for companionship in record numbers, many boomers
aren't eager to settle down. American women in their 40s and 50s are better
educated and more affluent than any previous generation of women at midlife,
and that has transformed the way they view dating. In a recent AARP study,
only 14 percent of women said their most important reason for dating was to
find someone to live with or marry, compared with 22 percent of men.
College professor Katherine Chaddock, 58, coauthor of "Flings, Frolics and
Forever Afters: A Single Woman's Guide to Romance After Fifty," has a full
schedule with work, her kids' visits home from college, and her trips to the
gym. For now, Chaddock says, her ideal relationship would be a "flex time"
could really enjoy on a fairly long-term basis somebody who lives and works
about 100 to 200 miles away, somebody I saw every weekend, Friday through
Sunday," she says.
we'd take a break and I could go back and talk to my cats and do silly stuff
and wear my teeth-whitener strips around the house."
past generations, the assumption was that men could readily date down the
calendar while women couldn't. But those rules have also changed.
Germana, 49, began dating a woman nearly ten years younger, in a
relationship that included lots of passion and lots of late nights.
Paradise? Not exactly.
lifestyle was killing me," Germana says. "I'm not used to all those late
nights." The relationship quickly fizzled. "She needed someone younger
andmore exciting," he says, "and I needed a break since I was half dead."
think of the groundbreaking affair between Samantha Jones, the aggressive
publicist on "Sex and the City," and her gentle boy toy, Smith Jerrod. In
real life, Kim Cattrall, the 49-year-old actress who played Samantha, is in
a relationship with 27-year-old Alan Wyse, a private chef whom she describes
as an old soul.
playing a sexually adventurous character, Cattrall found it hard to have a
relationship with a man her own age because she thought they were trying to
compete with Samantha. A younger man, she says, doesn't feel that need to
thing I really enjoy," she says, "is that I can show him my world and what I
think about something. He's not closed down."
Though single boomers are having sex regularly, only 39 percent invariably
use protection, according to the AARP study. "To me, those are pretty
alarming figures," says Linda Fisher, AARP's research director. Many boomers
just don't have a sense of danger about sex. They came of age before the HIV
epidemic and never learned how to negotiate condom use or testing with their
number of new HIV infections among older women is rising rapidly: between
1998 and 2000, women's share of AIDS cases among those 50 and older nearly
doubled, from 8.9 percent to 15 percent.
way boomers meet is also changing. While many still meet the old-fashioned
way-through friends, neighbors or relatives --a growing number are searching
Safka, CEO of Match.com, says that people over 50 make up his site's
fastest-growing segment, with a 300 percent increase since 2000.
sites, like PrimeSingles.net, cater specifically to the over-50 crowd.
25 years ago, most people were reliant on their friends to fix them up,"
says family historian Stephanie Coontz, of the Evergreen State College in
Washington. "People in their 40s and 50s don't want to be hanging out at
they have access to this incredible pool of single people their age."
included in the "Sex & the Single Boomer" cover package:
that Baby Boomers' youthful rock-and-roll romances are over and the
kids have grown up and taken the SAT, it's time for Marriage, Act II --
and it's not always a pretty picture, reports Senior Writer Claudia
stressors that strike, from health crises to layoffs to infidelity,
are emotionally and financially painful, and plenty of relationships have
crumbled because of them. The key to those who succeed? Flexibility and
humor and affection.
boomers move through their middle years, many are delighted to find that
they have a friend -- sometimes a network of friends -- who is every bit as
close as their own brothers and sisters, reports Senior Writer Peg Tyre.
Psychologists call the phenomenon "family by choice," and say it is an
inevitable -- and healthy -- response to 40 years of social upheaval.