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By Tom Blake
The year 2021 changed senior dating dramatically. COVID-19 was the culprit. In-person social events were canceled or switched to being presented virtually.
For example, I had a “Senior-dating-in-the-digital-age” speech scheduled for Sept. 24 that was requested by the Orange County Aging Services Collaborative. I was to appear in person at the Dorothy Visser Senior Center in San Clemente before an audience of 50 people.
My talk was scheduled to be aired simultaneously to nine other OC senior centers with an expected live audience of 40-50 people at each center for a total of perhaps 500 people.
I was hoping one or two potential couples would meet at each center, but because of COVID, the speech went entirely to Zoom, so none of the 500 people could meet in person.
During the pandemic, libraries, restaurants, bars, social clubs and other gathering spots were closed or open with limited access and saddled with mask restrictions and six-feet-apart requirements.
Senior social interaction was reduced by at least 80% (my guestimate) for most of the year. Face-to-face meetings, which are essential in cultivating relationships, were rare. Most seniors understandably didn’t want to risk catching COVID-19.
Yes, restrictions have been lifted somewhat in the past three months, but many seniors are still leery and hesitant to venture out.
To combat the face-to-face restrictions, many seniors, though not all, turned to internet dating, which is a great way to meet new people.
However, singles weren’t the only people using internet-dating sites. Romance scammers used the sites to spoof and scam vulnerable seniors. Some seniors tragically lost their savings.
The pandemic has been tough on couples who live in different states or countries. Canada’s border was closed for months, which made seeing a loved one living in Canada nearly impossible.
People in long-distance relationships saw each other less often than they liked. Even flying and driving long distances within the United States were challenging.
Larry, a friend and former Dana Point neighbor I’ve known for 28 years, met a woman in the Philippines a few years ago. He lived with her there but came home to the U.S. on a short business trip just before the pandemic started.
Since then, he’s had nine trips scheduled to return to be with her, but each time the Philippines government did not allow him to reenter the country.
I asked him this week, “Did you finally get to the P.I?”
Larry responded, “Still in the OC. Patience has turned to anger, and I don’t care if I ever go back to the Philippines! But, Emy and I really love each other, so we have other destinations in consideration.”
And now, there’s a new COVID-19 variant called Omicron that is possibly more contagious and dangerous. Will that make senior dating more difficult again? That’s hard to say, but it certainly is creating more uncertainty.
In the 26 years I’ve been writing about senior dating and relationships, I’ve never seen the senior singles scene so challenging.
I suggest singles try to get out with vaccinated friends, but oh-so carefully. Wear masks, avoid crowded places, gather outside when possible. Be vaccinated. If unsure of where to go, check out meetup.com, which lists hundreds of clubs and groups people can join at no cost.
Network through friends and organizations by asking people if they know of other singles who would like to meet a mate. That was the old-fashioned way of meeting potential mates, pre-internet.
Don’t give up. You never know who’s around the corner or in the next aisle at a store. Be friendly. Be upbeat. That guy wearing the Santa Claus suit and beard might be perfect for you.
Hopefully, 2022 will be better for senior dating. We’ll keep you posted.
Tom Blake is a retired Dana Point business owner and resident who has authored books on middle-aged dating. See his website at findingloveafter50.com. To comment: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Blake’s third, and likely final, book signing for his new book, Tutor & Spunky’s Deli. A Dana Point Landmark, is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 11, at Tutor and Spunky’s Deli, 34085 PCH, Dana Point, from 3-5 p.m.
For those unable to attend who would like a signed copy of the book, email Tom at email@example.com to order.