Lockdown sparks and sex after 60: ‘The meeting of minds is a great aphrodisiac’ | Life and style | #facebookdating | #tinder | #pof

A few years ago, while travelling in Europe, I met an Englishwoman in her early 70s. She introduced her husband to me by saying, “This is Bill. I advertised for him in the Guardian.”

Twelve years before, when they had both been in their early sixties, Bill had responded to her newspaper advertisement. Over the next few weeks a correspondence ensued, culminating in a meeting at a pub. They shared a counter lunch and a postprandial encounter of a different kind back at his place. She never went home.

So racy. So romantic. “So gross” is the response from some of my ageist acquaintances when I relay the story.

Not an encouraging reaction for a recently single 60-something taking her first cautious steps back on the online dating treadmill. The idea of anyone over 60 having expectations of physical intimacy – let alone a healthy sex life – is utterly distasteful to some sections of the population.

I was once one of them. Thirty years ago an acquaintance of mine, a generation older than me, decided I was mature enough to hear – in minute detail – about her regular trysts in the garage with a neighbour. I wasn’t. I was as shocked as anyone who married at 23, with little prior experience of dating, could be.

Since then I have been divorced, single, re-partnered and single again. I’ve come to embrace the liberation that comes with knowing that life is short and getting shorter by the day. Sex and intimacy are among the most important ways we can connect with another person. It can be life-affirming and life-giving, and I would be foolish not to hope to make that kind of connection again.

Since my last foray into the bear pit of online dating, free apps like Lumen and Bumble have entered the over 50s market. Bumble is designed to put women in the driver’s seat – only they can make initial contact – but despite the claims from both apps that they’re about more than appearances alone, I remain sceptical.

User-pays dating sites like Silver Singles and Elite Singles can be accessed via computer as well as smartphone; a concession not just to the client demographic but one that encourages a certain fulsomeness. Prospective partners have to rely on more than a photograph to establish a profile, including a personality test that is surprisingly accurate. The more information you enter, the higher your “score” is likely to be with a prospective match.

Like the rest of Melbourne, I’ve now embarked on another six weeks of stage three lockdown. No one is permitted to leave the house for purposes other than shopping, work, exercise or caring for the elderly. Fraternising is definitely off the menu. So being able to write a good profile and engage your correspondent are great assets in the search for love online.

The users of these sites rely less on physical hook-ups than phone hook-ups, at least initially. An extended courtship – either written, by phone or via Zoom – necessitates patience on both sides. But the meeting of minds can be a great aphrodisiac: a kind of cerebral sex in the absence of the real thing.

I’ve been surprised by some of the views expressed by potential partners. And no, not everyone starts a conversation with the subject of sexual expectations. But social distancing has necessitated more protracted and therefore in depth online conversations than in the pre-pandemic era.

There seems to be a huge divide regarding hopes of a satisfactory – dare I even suggest great – sex life in one’s senior years. For some it’s a vital part of life, for others a “bonus”, for yet others something to be endured or avoided at all costs.

I have been corresponding with an interesting man for almost a month now, on topics ranging from our favourite 1960s television series to our preferred breeds of dog. I recently likened our gentle conversation to slipping on a comfortable pair of moccasins, to which he replied, “A comfortable pair of moccasins, hey? Yes, my days as a dangerous pair of stilettos are well and truly over.”

I’ll admit to feelings of disappointment.

A new partnership at 60 has the potential to be as exciting and adventurous as anything we experienced in our youth. The early stages of a relationship are usually the most passionate, and the breaking news is that this is true for couples of all ages.

Newly minted older couples have an added advantage: a complete absence of the weight of societal expectations. They don’t have to purchase joint property – they don’t even have to live together if they don’t want to.

In our 60s, we have the luxury of being able to eschew the search for good genes in favour of companionship, common interests and a shared future. Our innate biological drive is not to reproduce but to make a connection. And if we’re lucky, it will be the kind where sparks fly.


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