Having Sex, Getting Ghosted, and Swiping Right—Here’s What It’s Like to Date After 50


“The world has changed a lot; I have to adapt.”

On a cocktail napkin, she wrote “a real kiss.” He wrote “sex and clarity.” 

Helen Fisher, Ph.D., a biological anthropologist and senior research fellow at The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, had been meeting up with a man in New York every couple of months for about a year. They went on dates to the opera and out to eat at restaurants, but they typically ended their evenings with nothing more than a hug goodbye. One night over drinks at dinner, she suggested they secretly write down what they would like if they won a game of pool against the other.

After a victorious match, Fisher’s date showed her his napkin and elaborated that he wanted to be friends with benefits—following a divorce, he wasn’t ready for a relationship. “That’s fine,” Fisher said. However, “I study love…One thing I can tell you is once you start to have sex with somebody, it can trigger the brain circuitry for romantic love. Are you willing to take that chance?” she asked. 

“He said yes. And one thing led to another,” says Fisher, 78. The pair married two years ago. 

If you think making bets over a game of pool and proposing a friends-with-benefits situation sound like experiences saved for twenty-somethings, then you’re missing out on the very hot, complicated, playful dating lives of those over 50. People are living well into their 70s on average, and many are starting over after divorce or the loss of a spouse in midlife and later. In fact, 28% of people ages 50 to 64 are single, and that number goes up to 36% for those above the age of 65.

Depictions of dating during this stage of life are just starting to trickle into the mainstream: Take the Sex and the City reboot And Just Like That or ABC’s new reality dating show The Golden Bachelor, for instance. Whether you’re watching it on TV, hearing about it from family and friends, or going through it yourself, it’s clear that people over 50 are dealing with many of the same pitfalls and triumphs as their younger counterparts. While the dating pool may be a different depth and shape than what some swam in decades ago, the water’s still fine if you’re willing to jump in.

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