Family

Grandma Has a Boyfriend?

She might be looking for love — but she's got to think about STDs, swindlers, and her life savings

A new documentary called “The Age of Love” follows the hysterical and poignant adventures of 30 seniors who attend a first-of-its-kind speed dating event for 70-to-90-year-olds. The film demonstrates that wrinkles and gray hair aren’t going to stop the young-at-heart from making new love connections.

Many seniors are ready to give love another try. “People are interested in [dating], really interested,” Ann Machado, chair of the “Continue United” committee, told Miami Herald. The group brings Miami-Dade retirees and pre-retirees together for community projects — and its Feb. 2 event, a dinner and a movie, has already sold out after a single email blast, Machado noted.

Elderly relatives can be easy targets for adept swindlers.

It may not look like it from the outside — but a grandparent’s nursing home could be as raucous as a college frat party. Seniors are living longer these days, many into their late 80s and 90s, and they’re in better health than ever. Often they’re single because of divorce or the death of a spouse — and they’re looking for new love.

For those accustomed to seeing Grandma with Grandpa, it can be very difficult to see a loved one branch out on dates with others. “Many families find it unseemly that an older person might have feelings of a sexual nature or a romantic nature,” Dr. Ruth Nemzoff, a professor at the women’s studies research center at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, told LifeZette.

“We don’t see many of those images of older people in love. Many families are just horrified because they think it’s unseemly,” she said. “They also sometimes feel abandoned — ‘Grandma is supposed to be there for me, and now she has her own life.'”

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But if a spouse dies at 70 years old, that could mean someone’s alone for the next 20 years — “and that’s a long time to be alone,” said Nemzoff. “When [families] see it from that perspective, it’s a very different view. They should also keep in mind that many of these [elderly relatives] are in good health. They’re spry and can travel and enjoy activities and games. People can live healthfully at older ages.”

The seniors dating scene, however, can be fraught with its own challenges, and family members often need to step in. The rates of chlamydia infections have risen among seniors by 31 percent in recent years; syphilis infections have risen 52 percent. Since many seniors came of age during the sexual revolution or were already married by the time the “safe sex talk” developed, they may never have learned about STDs and preventive measures.

The women are no longer worried about getting pregnant, and the men are often using drugs like Viagra — a combination that gets plenty of senior citizens into trouble.

Related: Older Americans Need More Health Freedom

Likewise, elderly relatives can be easy targets for adept swindlers. Retirees often have ample savings, own their homes, and have excellent credit ratings, all of which makes them appealing to unsavory characters. Seniors may be conned out of as much as $2.9 billion a year, according to a study published by AARP. The most common senior exploitation comes from the people closest to them.

To address the risk of both STDs and con artists, Nemzoff recommends the same medicine: a frank conversation with grandparents. “These conversations are a million times easier to have before the problem arises,” she sid. She recommends asking questions before the seniors begin dating again, such as, “How do you want us to participate in your relationship? How are you protecting your own assets?” Family members can take concerns about STDs directly to the relative’s doctor.

Senior couples may also want to sign a prenuptial agreement in order to prevent their savings from disappearing. Nemzoff suggested a wise question to put to the older person is this: “Do you want all your savings to go to his health care when you might need similar care five years later?”

If you’re worried that Grandma’s new boyfriend is a swindler — first examine your own feelings. Do you feel resentful of, or disturbed by, your relative’s new romance?

Related: Taking the Chill Off Senior Isolation

If so, the problem is not the new boyfriend. But if you do gather evidence of a shady character, be sure to take it first to your grandparent so that he or she has a say in the solution. Applying for power of attorney and legal guardianship can also help ensure your grandparent remains well taken care of and safe.

At the end of the day, remember: “Grandma is an adult, so ultimately these things are her decision,” Nemzoff said. Help where you can but be willing to step back — and be happy your grandparent has found a companion for the final lap around the track of life.

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