A recent heart-warming story of a 90-year retiree who found love for the first time has highlighted that downsizing into a seniors living community can be a pathway to romance.

In late February, ABC Illawarra covered the story of 90-year-old Jean Whittle, who is a retirement village resident in Wollongong who fell in love for the first time with a nearby resident, Martin, who was four years her junior. The two met while waiting at a bus stop.

“Martin’s the first one I’ve really loved – it took me 88 years!,” Ms Whittle said.

Ms Whittle had spent most of her life caring for her cousin and never had the time to find ‘the one’, until Martin came along.

Ms Whittle’s story follows evidence that modern day seniors are becoming more romantically adventurous, and that seniors living communities provide the perfect environment for those who want to ‘play the field’.

Many singles in Australian retirement villages

According to the most recent PWC/Property Council Retirement Living Census, retirement villages are awash with singles. About 61 per cent of retirement living units are occupied by singles, compared to 39 per cent occupied by couples.

What’s more, 62 per cent of retirement village residents are female and just 38 per cent are male – which would appear to put men in the box set in the romance stakes.

But how many of these senior singles are interested in romance? The answer is ‘lots’, according a separate study by a seniors insurance agency from 2016.

This study found about one in ten Australian single seniors are officially ‘on the prowl’ and hope to be dating soon. A further one in ten currently are dating. Men look to be twice as interested in dating, compared to women.

Given there were 3.9 million Australians aged over 50 in 2017, this means there are well over 839,500 Aussie seniors out there actively looking for love – in other words there’s quite a lot of ‘fish in the sea’.

Most seniors interested in dating expect to meet potential partners through existing social and friendship networks, although a surprisingly high number (about 25 per cent) were willing to use online dating sites (even if this site is not targeted at seniors).

The same survey found around 70 per cent of seniors agreed that “seniors are more likely to be dating these days than in the past”.

Overall, given the high number of singles in retirement villages, and the increasing desire of singles to meet and date new partners, you can only draw the conclusion that finding a new partner (or indeed meeting one for the first time like Jean Whittle) is bound to be easier in a seniors living community.

This means that downsizing from a large, lonely home, and into a retirement community, can not only help your bank balance and reduce your chores – it might also lead to love.

The experts agree

Each year, Relationships Australia holds a national Neighbour Day, which encourages people to connect with neighbours. (This year’s Neighbour Day, by the way, is on 31 March).

Relationship Australia’s Neighbour Day Campaign Manager Sam Robinson told Downsizing.com.au that forming relationships in later life is not just good fun, but can also help ward off health problems.

“Retirement living and seniors housing certainly provide great opportunities for older Australians to connect with each other,” Mr Robinson said.

“At Neighbour Day, we always encourage people to reach out to meet their neighbours as soon as they can when they move to a new community”.

On the health benefits of socialising, Mr Robinson said: “Research finds that increasing the number of social groups you belong to helps counteract depression and increases your lifespan, particularly post retirement.”

And if you want to do some further light-hearted “research” on seniors romance, perhaps download or buy a copy of the new novel by Australian publisher Hachette called “The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Village”.

The novel tells the story of a 79-year-old single female pensioner who pursues her male neighbour, who is one of the few eligible bachelors in the village.

Based on the analysis in this article, it would seem this fictional scenario is a fair reflection of what is actually happening in real-life in many seniors living communities across Australia.

Mark Skelsey is the News Editor of Downsizing.com.au

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