Love in Victoria Series Part II: Dating in your late 70s and early 80s has its own set of complications, but ‘whether you’re 18 or 81, love is love’
For many, the thought of their grandparents dating sends a collective shutter down one’s ageist spine. Like it or not, Victorians don’t stop dating at 65. In fact, retirement can mean the beginning of a whole new dating cycle.
Chuck Addison is a 77-year-old retired military man and pastor from Ottawa. He lost his wife, Karen, over two years ago due to stroke and dementia. It devastated him. “Men don’t do as well as women when they’re alone,” he says. “I was rushed to the hospital four times.”
The physical decline that Chuck experienced stemmed from his mental outlook.
“I didn’t want to move here [to The Wellesley retirement home on Blanshard]. I didn’t care to live. Seriously. I was down hill,” he recalls of those days.
Eventually, he, his caregiver and his children decided a retirement home was best. They put the family home up for sale and it sold that day. A month later, the majority of his belongings were gone and he was starting a new phase in his life, one that he expected would be solitary.
“The last thing on my mind was being involved again.”
But solitary life wasn’t in the cards. A year after his loss, Chuck and his son went to the retirement home’s restaurant. Thanks to 20 years spent in Germany, his son struck up a conversation with a group of diners speaking German. The conversation extended an unexpected lifeline when that same group invited Chuck to dine with them the following night. That’s when he got his first look at Judy, 81.
“I started taking an interest in her as a friend, a companion. She started to feel the same way . . . and I started to get more motivation!”
Dating in your late 70s and early 80s has its own set of complications.
“The rumours from my own church that would come back!” Chuck says, still shocked. “I get a phone call saying that they just heard some young pastor . . . first, I like the word young,” he chuckles, “was dating every woman here. Taking every woman shopping and out for a meal. Then I was eloping and had a woman pregnant. I hadn’t even gone anywhere with Judy yet!”
More than the rumours is the outright slander. For many in this generation, the idea of spending romantic time with someone outside of wedlock is unconscionable.
Violet (Vi) and Alan Whalley’s secret to 65 years of marriage is never leaving the house angry and always giving a little peck.
While Vi doesn’t like the idea of her grandchildren living with their significant others before marriage, she doesn’t have a problem with those in her community, like Chuck and Judy, doing so. “I think it’s better. What if you lost your significant other? You’re very lonely. I told Al, ‘if you find someone you think you’re compatible with, okay … but I’ll come down and kill you,’” she jokes.
When it’s right
The appropriate amount of time to wait after the death of a spouse is difficult to decide. Chuck’s girlfriend, Judy, didn’t start dating until five years after her husband’s death. For Chuck, it was over a year.
Judy says, “It’s up to you. If you fall in love, you fall in love.”
Judy’s recollection of her and Chuck’s first date was over breakfast. “The first time he paid, and the second time I paid. We do everything half and half, but that time he got a coffee which isn’t regular for him and it brought the bill up,” Judy laughs. “We have a lot of fun together.”
One thing this year-long couple has going for them is their families’ full support. As far as everyone else is concerned, Judy says, “It’s none of their business. We’re not hurting anyone.”
Like any good relationship, the success of this later-in-life-coupling is open communication. When they began dating there were no taboo topics. There was also a respect for differences. Judy is not religious, but Chuck’s whole life was about the church. He was a decorated pastor and continues to give sermons on Sundays. That’s how he put a stop to the rumours once and for all.
“I was doing a service,” Chuck says, “and at the end I said a prayer. I said ‘Thank you, God, for bringing a woman into my life who’s now given me a purpose.’ That stopped it all.”
Challenges aside, dating in later life looks good, especially on these two. And the physical relationship doesn’t hurt. While it might be hard for some to consider elderly sexuality, it does exist.
When asked if the prospect of physicality stopped some older folks from pursuing a relationship, Judy says, “Maybe. Not in our case. We’re very physical. There are certain limitations. It’s not like you’re young again, but the feeling is still the same. Whether you’re 18 or 81, love is love.” M