Although many advertisements depict an older couple strolling along the beach in retirement, there's a good chance that baby boomers will be single during the retirement years. Largely due to the death of a spouse or divorce, 42 percent of Americans age 60 and older were single in 2012, according to Census Bureau data. Many of these single retirees may find themselves dating again in retirement.
Dating in retirement sometimes serves a different purpose than dating in your 20s and 30s. "You are not looking for someone who will be a good parent or to start a family," says Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell Medical College. "You are often looking for somebody to have fun with."
By this age, almost everyone has a complicated relationship history of former spouses and also children. Among the 60-and-older population, 21 percent are single due to widowhood and 14 percent are divorced. Just 5.8 percent of senior citizens never married and 1.5 percent are separated.
"Many have had marriages that have ended under difficult circumstances. Others have served as caretakers to a sick partner and are reticent to enter into another relationship where they might feel obligated," says Julia Samton, a neuropsychiatrist and director of Manhattan Neuropsychiatric. "After experiencing emotional and/or physical losses, it is common to establish defensive walls that interfere with intimacy. Dating successfully means a commitment and willingness to open up and move forward despite feeling vulnerable and anxious."
Dating can be especially difficult for women during the retirement years because women significantly outnumber men, especially at the oldest ages. "Single women do outnumber single men, mostly due to widowhood," Samton says. "In general, for both men and women, the pool gets smaller."
To find where single retirees live, U.S. News analyzed 2012 Census Bureau data. People were counted as single if they were widowed, divorced, separated or never married. The highest proportion of unmarried retirees is in the Miami and New Orleans metro areas, where half of people age 60 and older are single. Both Miami and New Orleans have divorce rates that are more than 2 percentage points higher than the national rate. New Orleans also has a particularly high proportion of widows and widowers (24 percent), while Miami has a relatively large number of people who never married (8.1 percent). Other places with noteworthy proportions of single seniors include Jackson, Miss., Memphis, Tenn., and the New York metro area.
Ogden, Utah, is unique in having the lowest proportion of single seniors, just 29.3 percent, due to below-average proportions of people who are widowed (14 percent), divorced (11 percent) and never married (2.9 percent). In several other metro areas, including Cape Coral, Fla., Lancaster, Pa., and Boise, Idaho, just over a third of seniors are single.
Women are much more likely to find themselves single during their retirement years than men because they often outlive their spouses. In Albany, N.Y., for example, 63 percent of women age 65 and older are single, compared with 33.2 percent of men. This is largely because 41 percent of Albany women in this age range are widows, versus 15 percent of men. The story is similar in Cleveland, where 40 percent of women age 65 and older, but just 13 percent of men in that age group, have a spouse who passed away. The proportion of seniors who are divorced, separated and never married is similar among men and women.
Moving outside of your existing social network is a good way to meet new people and get the process started. "If you are in a longtime network, you have met all the people you are going to meet through that network," says Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor at the University of Washington in Seattle and author of "Dating After 50 For Dummies." "You either have to take on new hobbies or go to a new church or a temple to meet new people that way, or try online dating to meet people out of your network."
Check out these 10 places with the greatest proportions of single seniors:
2. New Orleans
3. Jackson, Miss.
4. Memphis, Tenn.
5. New York
7. Albany, N.Y.
8. Las Vegas
9. Buffalo, N.Y.
10. Los Angeles
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