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The Importance Of Love As We Age
Senior citizens sometimes find that they are isolated and lonely. Whether they’ve moved into an assisted living or nursing home facility or have lost a spouse, it may seem difficult to feel connected and loved.
Seniors need love and affection as much as anyone else despite the fact that talking about it is somewhat taboo. Age has no bearing on a person’s ability to give or receive love. In fact, loving for longer is excellent for a person’s health.
Senior Love Is About More Than Just Feeling Happy
Love affects everyone in multiple ways. Yes, love makes you feel happy and good about who you’re with, but it also causes a physical reaction. It causes symptoms like a quick heart rate and dilated pupils, both signs that you’re attracted to another person.
At the same time, sex and love can help with additional benefits such as:
- Boosting the immune system
- Improving sleep
- Reducing stress
- Lowering blood pressure
A stable, healthy relationship with another person boosts your emotional and mental wellbeing at any age.
In an article sharing seniors’ experience with love, one passage really supports the idea of seniors needing to experience love. “There’s an intimacy that comes later that is staggeringly wonderful,” Jennie B., an 82-year-old widow who chose to keep her last name private, told The New York Times a few years ago. “Old love, I think, is wiser, quieter, and, in its own way, absolutely as intense.”
The Science Behind Love
Knowing that physical manifestations of being in love can improve your health is the first step towards understanding the importance of love for senior citizens. Did you know that love can actually change your brain chemistry? Seniors may find that they feel happier and less lonely or isolated just by having contact with someone they love.
In a 2012 research study of love research, Lisa Diamond and Janna Dickenson, two psychologists at the University of Utah, found that romantic love is directly connected with brain activity in the caudate nucleus and ventral tegmental area. These two areas of the brain regulate dopamine, a neurotransmitter well known for being a “feel good” chemical. Beneficially, just thinking about your partner once you’re in love may help reduce stress, pain, and negative feelings.
Additionally, a team of scientists led by Dr. Helen Fisher at Rutgers found that romantic love can be best broken down into three categories: lust, attraction, and attachment. Each has its own set of hormones that are found in the brain, like testosterone and estrogen for lust, dopamine, norepinephrine for love, and oxytocin and vasopressin for attachment.
Senior Love Shouldn’t Be Taboo
Senior love shouldn’t have to be taboo, but it often is. A senior who has lost a partner may be ready to move on to start dating or to be with someone new, but family members may be upset about them moving on or be grieving themselves.
It’s important to remember that senior love doesn’t need to be taboo and shouldn’t be. Love is healthy, and seniors have time to pursue a new romance. In fact, a National Poll on Aging from the University of Michigan found that of those between 65 and 80, 72% had a current romantic partner.
Age Can Change the Way You Love
Getting older does mean that those who date may run into unique issues like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The development of these diseases doesn’t mean that a person no longer has a need for physical or emotional intimacy, though. Dementia or Alzheimer’s may change how seniors express their need, such as by reducing sexual energy but having a heightened interest in cuddling or handholding. This is something to discuss with your partner if one or both of these conditions occur.
Don’t Get Stuck In a Rut with Senior Dating
Seniors can still date! If you’re ready to start dating, a few fun ideas could include:
- Going out for a meal with your date
- Taking a dance class together
- Going to see a movie
- Riding bikes together
- Trying an indoor activity together
These are just a few ideas that may help you start dating again.
Senior Love and Companionship Is Natural and Necessary
No matter how old you or someone you love is, love is never out of the equation. It’s important to encourage finding love at any age to break the taboo and improve the lives of those you care about. Need someone to talk about more about it? Join our support group! We have monthly meetups, either in person, or via Zoom where we chat about everything related to senior care!