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Boom Calendar for Grown-ups ~ Curated for Us @ Fifty Plus
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Athens retirees Bill Barstow and Catharine Tyson, have been together six years.  They aren’t married, and they don’t live together, although they talk several times a day and often spend the night at one or the other’s house. They go to events together, travel together, and are there for each other in many ways – but they don’t intend to walk down the aisle.   

They are part of a growing trend of people over 50 who form mutually beneficial relationships rooted in camaraderie, support, and shared experiences and interests. It’s a trend researchers call “living apart together,” or LAT.  

Bill, 86, had been married for 20 years to Dolly, who he calls the love of his life.  Catharine, 80, was married for 52 years to Bobby, the love of her life.  The couples knew each other very casually through their church. In 2016, they lost their spouses less than 4 months apart – in fact, they attended the respective funerals.     

A year and a half later, they were chatting at a church function, and he declared, “We have something in common – ‘you’re a widow and I’m a widower,’” which was the preface to asking her to brunch. “I didn’t know her very well, so it was just a friendly gesture.” 

“We talked about our spouses and how they died,” recalls Catharine – both had died lingering deaths. When the subject of Catharine’s kitchen renovation came up that day, Bill invited her to see what he and Dolly had done in theirs. More brunches followed. Then sitting together at church, and then dates. A weekend trip to the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville cemented that they were, indeed, a couple.   

“Bobby had told me often ‘If anything happens to me, you go find somebody,’ explains Catharine, “and I always said ‘no – that’s not going to happen.’” 

Getting clarity 

After dating for about three months, Catharine told Bill they needed to talk about something – she was straightforward, “If you’re looking for a wife, you need to keep looking. I didn’t want my children to worry about financial issues.” Bill was equally adamant that marriage was not what he was seeking either.  

They each have children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and have no plans to change their wills. Luckily, their children are glad for them. They each have their own house and they don’t blend their finances although they do share a debit card for shared expenses when they dine out or travel. While each is on the emergency contact list at their doctors’ offices, they don’t hold each other’s medical power of attorney.   

On the other hand, as typical age-related health issues have come up such as a colonoscopy or minor surgery, each does support the other, whether driving or going to an appointment or administering glaucoma eyedrops three times a day. But “If one of us had to go into a nursing home, our children would step in,” Catharine explains.  

In a New York Times article on the topic of older singles, LAT is attractive because it avoids the potential responsibility of being a full-time caregiver, which is particularly relevant for women who often have had a lifetime of caregiving. This same article notes that LAT relationships seem to be more prevalent among those at high enough socioeconomic levels to be able to maintain separate households.  

Having met, married and buried the loves of their life, Bill and Catharine acknowledge that both have had full, successful lives, but they aren’t done yet. Bill says they like to spend Friday night together and then Saturday morning read the paper, drink coffee, and talk.  

Catharine says their relationship, “is life enhancing. I’ve been a prude all my life, but I told Bill I was in the fourth quarter, and I was going for it.”   

Arlene Williams lives in Winterville where she sells real estate, rides horses, and dances like crazy when she gets a chance.  

We’ve summarized a variety of articles and books that address some of the issues that seniors who are new to the dating world and relationships might encounter – from finding someone to dealing with the concerns of grown children.  

Meeting Someone

1. Online Dating 
Online dating platforms are increasingly popular among seniors. Websites and apps like eHarmony, OurTime, and SilverSingles cater specifically to older adults. These platforms allow you to create a profile, specify your preferences, and connect with potential partners. 
Tips for Online Dating: 
–  Create a Genuine Profile:  Be honest about your interests, values, and what you’re looking for in a partner. 
–  Choose the Right Photos:  Use recent photos that accurately represent you. 
–  Be Safe:  Protect your personal information, meet in public places for initial dates, and inform a friend or family member about your plans. 
–  Stay Patient:  Finding the right person may take time, so stay positive and open-minded. 
2. Social Activities and Clubs 
Joining social clubs, hobby groups, or community organizations is a great way to meet new people with shared interests. Consider activities like: 
–  Book Clubs:   Ideal for those who enjoy reading and discussing literature. 
–  Fitness Classes:   Yoga, swimming, or dance classes can help you stay active and meet like-minded individuals. 
–  Travel Groups:   Senior travel groups provide opportunities to explore new places while forming new friendships.  Alumni groups, church groups, OLLI, hobby interest groups like photography or hiking often offer trips and outings. 
–  Volunteering:   Volunteering for causes you care about can connect you with others who share your values. 

3. Senior Centers and Community Events 
Local senior centers often host events and activities that encourage social interaction. These can include: 
–   Dances and Socials:   Regular social events where seniors can mingle and dance. 
–   Workshops and Classes:   Learn new skills or hobbies while meeting others with similar interests. 
–   Special Interest Groups:   Whether it’s gardening, painting, or technology, these groups can help you connect with potential partners. 
4. Religious and Spiritual Communities 
Places of worship and spiritual gatherings provide a supportive environment to meet others who share your faith and values. Many religious communities also have social events and groups specifically for seniors. 
5. Personal Network 
Your existing social network can be a valuable resource. Friends and family members may know someone who is also looking for companionship. Let your loved ones know you’re interested in meeting new people, and they might help facilitate introductions. 

What to Look for in a Partner

Choosing the right partner involves considering both practical and emotional factors. Here are key qualities to look for: 
1. Shared Values and Interests 
Having similar values and interests is crucial for a lasting relationship. Consider what’s important to you in areas like family, religion, lifestyle, and future goals. 
2. Compatibility 
Emotional and intellectual compatibility ensures you enjoy each other’s company and can communicate effectively. Look for someone with whom you feel comfortable and can have meaningful conversations. 
3. Emotional Availability 
Both partners should be emotionally available and ready for a relationship. This means they are open to intimacy, willing to share their feelings, and able to provide support. 
4. Trust and Respect 
A healthy relationship is built on mutual trust and respect. Look for a partner who respects your boundaries, values your opinions, and is honest and trustworthy. 
5. Physical Attraction and Intimacy 
Physical attraction and compatibility in intimacy are important aspects of a romantic relationship. Ensure you feel a mutual attraction and that your physical needs and boundaries are respected. 
6. Health and Lifestyle 
Consider your prospective partner’s health and lifestyle choices. Compatible lifestyles can make daily life together more harmonious. 

Handling Finances

Finances can be a delicate topic, but addressing them early on is crucial for a healthy relationship. Here’s how to manage financial matters: 
1. Open Communication 
Discuss your financial situations openly and honestly. Share information about your income, savings, debts, and financial goals. 
2. Financial Independence 
Both partners should maintain some level of financial independence to ensure security and autonomy. This can mean keeping separate bank accounts or having independent sources of income. 
3. Joint Expenses 
If you decide to share expenses, discuss how you will manage them. This could include: 
–   Splitting Costs:   Dividing expenses equally or proportionally based on income. 
–   Joint Accounts:   Opening a joint account for shared expenses like housing, groceries, and travel. 
4. Estate Planning 
Update your estate plans to reflect your new relationship. This includes: 
–   Wills:   Ensure your will reflects your current wishes. 
–   Beneficiaries:   Update beneficiaries on accounts like life insurance, retirement plans, and investments. 
–   Power of Attorney:   Consider appointing your partner as a power of attorney for medical and financial decisions, if appropriate. 
5. Legal Agreements 
In some cases, legal agreements like prenuptial or cohabitation agreements can protect both parties’ financial interests. Consult a lawyer to discuss whether this is appropriate for your situation. 

Dealing with Family Dynamics

Introducing a new partner can affect your family relationships. Here’s how to navigate family dynamics: 
1. Communication with Family 
Be open and honest with your family about your new relationship. Explain your feelings and why this relationship is important to you. 
2. Introducing Your Partner 
Introduce your partner to your family gradually. Plan casual meetings to help everyone get to know each other. 
3. Addressing Concerns 
Be prepared for any concerns your family might have. Listen to their worries and address them calmly and respectfully. 
4. Balancing Relationships 
Balance your time and attention between your partner and your family. Ensure you maintain strong relationships with your family while building your new partnership. 
5. Respecting Boundaries 
Respect your family’s boundaries and encourage them to respect yours. Set clear expectations about the role your partner will play in family events and decisions. 

Managing Housing

Deciding on living arrangements is a major step in a relationship. Consider these factors: 
1. Current Living Situation 
Evaluate your current living situations. Consider factors like: 
–   Home Ownership:   Whether you or your partner own your homes. 
–   Renting:   If renting, discuss lease agreements and potential changes. 
–   Location:   Proximity to family, healthcare, and community resources. 
2. Moving In Together 
If you decide to live together, discuss: 
–   Home Modifications:   Any changes needed to accommodate both partners. 
–   Shared Spaces:   How to organize and share living spaces. 
–   Financial Contributions:   How you will share housing costs. 
3. Independent Living 
Some couples prefer to maintain separate homes while still enjoying a committed relationship. This can allow for personal space and independence. 
4. Assisted Living or Retirement Communities 
If one or both partners require more support, consider options like assisted living or retirement communities. These settings provide care and social opportunities while maintaining some independence. 

Medical Issues

Managing medical issues is a critical aspect of senior relationships. Here’s how to navigate this area: 
1. Health Discussions 
Talk openly about your health conditions and medical needs. This includes: 
–   Chronic Conditions:   Any ongoing health issues and how they are managed. 
–   Medications:   What medications you take and any potential side effects. 
2. Healthcare Preferences 
Discuss your preferences for medical care, including: 
–   Doctors and Specialists:   Your current healthcare providers and any preferred specialists. 
–   Medical Facilities:   Preferred hospitals or clinics. 
3. Health Insurance 
Ensure you both have adequate health insurance. Discuss: 
–   Coverage:   What your insurance covers and any out-of-pocket expenses. 
–   Plans:   Whether you need to update or change plans based on your new relationship. 
4. Advance Directives 
Create or update advance directives, including: 
–   Living Wills:   Your wishes for medical treatment in case you are unable to communicate. 
–   Healthcare Proxies:   Appointing someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if necessary. 
5. Caregiving Plans 
If one partner has significant health issues, discuss caregiving plans: 
–   Roles and Responsibilities:   Who will provide care and what tasks will they handle. 
–   Support Systems:   Access to additional support, such as home health aides or respite care. 

Addressing Intimacy and Sexual Health

Intimacy and sexual health are important aspects of a romantic relationship at any age. Here’s how to approach these topics: 
1. Open Communication 
Discuss your feelings and expectations regarding intimacy. Be honest about your desires and any concerns you may have. 
2. Physical Health 
Consider any health issues that might affect intimacy, such as: 
–   Chronic Conditions:   How conditions like arthritis or diabetes might impact sexual activity. 
–   Medications:   Potential side effects of medications on sexual health. 
3. Emotional Connection 
Focus on building a strong emotional connection. Intimacy is about more than physical activity; it includes emotional closeness and mutual support. 
4. Safe Sex 
Practice safe sex to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Even in senior years, it’s important to consider: 
–   Condoms:   Use condoms to reduce the risk of STIs. 
–   Regular Check-Ups:   Get regular medical check-ups and STI screenings if you have multiple partners. 
5. Addressing Challenges 
If you encounter challenges with intimacy, consider: 
–   Medical Advice:   Consult a healthcare provider for advice and treatment options. 
–   Counseling:   Couples therapy or sex therapy can help address emotional or psychological barriers to intimacy. 


Senior companion partnerships embody the essence of meaningful connections and shared experiences, offering a source of comfort, companionship, and support for older adults navigating life’s journey. By understanding how to find the right companion, handling finances, families, housing, former spouses, and addressing medical issues with care and consideration, seniors can embark on this enriching journey with confidence and peace of mind. 

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