Northwest NEWS

May 27, 2002

Features

Return to social life can be fulfilling for suddenly single seniors

from Healthy Aging Partnership
   After spending decades as one-half of a couple, older adults who find themselves suddenly single can face overwhelming isolation and loneliness.
   But senior singles can make the most out of the rest of their lives by taking positive steps to develop fulfilling new relationships. It takes time to overcome the grief that accompanies the absence of a long-time partner.
   Once the survivors feel emotionally ready to enjoy social activities again, they often don't know where to turn or how to get started.
   JoEllen Schill, an interpersonal resource consultant who works with singles of all ages, says older adults face particular challenges in developing a social life as a single. "The first step is to get over the shock and depression associated with the end of long-term relationship, either through divorce or death," Schill says. "When people come out of this depression, they realize they may have 15 or 20 years of life left and they must make a decision about what to do with the rest of their lives. Not everyone wants to hook up with another partner,but most people want to have some kind of social life."
   Schill suggests that the best way to re-enter the world of socializing and dating is to "find your passion." Take a look at the kind of activities you enjoy then pursue them.
   "Along the way," Schill says, "you'll meet people with compatible interests and make new friends."
   Here are just a few ways people pursue their "passionate" interests:
   • Take dance lessons. Studios will put you in a group with like-aged people.
   • Visit a nearby senior center. They offer exercise classes, presentations and other opportunities for socializing.
   • Learn to play a card game, like bridge, and join a card club.
   •Check into organized activities like dances and cultural excursions specifically designed for seniors. The weekend sections of daily newspapers typically provide a comprehensive list of these kinds of activities.
   • Consider moving into a retirement community. Check out those that offer the kinds of programs and activities that you're interested in.
   • Travel. Many organizations, such as university alumni clubs, offer group travel packages that appeal to older adults.
   Organizations such as Elderhostel combine education with travel. Cruise companies offer cruises specifically for senior singles.
   • Sign up for a class at a community college. Seniors get significant discounts on tuition and other fees.
   • Join a hiking, bicycling, mountain climbing or outdoor club.
   • Play golf or take golf lessons.
   • Volunteer at a museum, hospital or social service agency.
   • Join a stock-purchase club.
   • Go to community lectures about topics that interest you.
   If a desire for socializing evolves into an interest in dating, Schill advises older singles to rely on themselves, not others.
   "When you've been in a long-term relationship and you're suddenly single in your 60s or 70s, it's surprising to find that the rules have changed. You can't expect a neighbor or friend to fix you up with a suitable gentleman or lady. You have to get out there," she says.
   "Make friends and interact. Don't think of it as looking for Mr. or Ms. Right. Do things and experience life. People in their later years have so much life left in them and there are so many opportunities to live out there if they'll just take a chance."
   For more information on activities for senior singles - or for free and confidential answers to all your questions about life as an older adult - call the Healthy Aging Partnership's (HAP) toll-free information and assistance line at 1-888-4ELDERS (1-888-435-3377) or visit the Web site at www.4elders.org.
   A coalition of 30 not-for-profit and public senior and health organizations in King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties, HAP is generously supported by its partner agencies, Puget Sound Energy and the Comprehensive Health Education Foundation.