“This woman is running my dad’s entire life!”
“It’s like my mother needs his permission to see her own family!”
“How do we know this isn’t just some sort of con artist?”
Those are few of the openers we’ve heard from family members concerned when their elderly parents start dating again.
In the spirit of the recent Valentine’s Day weekend, I’d like to share some of the observations our in-home caregivers have collected on the topic of senior dating.
It’s natural for adult children to have questions, particularly about parents who have not been single for 40 or more years. Here are some of our top tips for adult children of senior parents who are back in the dating game, collected by the in-home caregivers at Caring Hearts:
Don’t Try to Parent Them
Remember when you were a teenager and Dad would ask you a million questions before you got out the door?
- Where’s the party?
- Will the parents be at home?
- Who else will be there?
- Do their parents know they’re going to the party?
- How many people?
It was torture, right?
But you were a kid and they were your parents. Don’t be that parent to your mom or dad now. It’s just as annoying for them now as it was for you then and, more important, they are adults who are allowed to make their own decisions.
Still, Be Aware of Their Plans
It’s always a good idea for friends and family to share plans and general schedules so everybody knows when — and when NOT — to worry.
It’s also okay to ask the same questions you’d ask a sibling:
- How did you meet her?
- Where does he live?
- Have you met her friends?
Caregivers suggest that these conversations can show your concern for your loved one and your interest in his or her well-being, without turning into an inquisition.
They Know How Old They Are
Several families have expressed to the in-home caregivers at Caring Hearts a concern that a widowed parent entering into a romantic relationship may be setting themselves up to go straight into caring for another aging and ailing partner. That’s a valid concern, but seniors have done a lot of living and know where they are in their lives.
There’s a difference between telling your parents they shouldn’t date, which very likely will lead to conflict, and asking sincere concerned questions like:
- Where do you think this is going?
- Have you thought about what happens if it gets really serious?
Starting this conversation early can help both parties agree to who will care for each of them when they can no longer get by so independently and how they might accommodate each other’s plans. In-home care clients who have planned ahead report greater levels of satisfaction, so it’s worth the time to do so.
Scams Are Real
Unfortunately, there really are scam artists out there and we need to be alert on behalf of our elderly loved ones. Have an open discussion with your parent about things that have changed since the last time they were single. If they are using an online dating site, make sure it’s reputable and they understand how to protect their personal data.
If you’re worried that an elderly loved one may be a victim of elder abuse, please contact your local National Adult Protective Services Association.
You Will Always Be Family
Companionship is an important part of our lives no matter what our age. But the idea of our parents having romantic relationships can be conflicting, particularly when they’re older and it’s our first experience observing them in this role.
Remember that they have every right to pursue their own happiness and fulfillment and our first responsibility is to be supportive and nurturing in the choices they make for themselves.