Connie Sturgess is 73, single and ready to mingle.
The Calgary grandmother has been divorced for some time from a 20-year marriage. Healthy, retired, and adventurous, she is the embodiment of the baby boomer generation’s ‘silver singles.’
“I still want to bike. I still want to hike and canoe and kayak. I still want to dance,” she says. “I want a life.”
What she doesn’t necessarily want is a husband.
“I don’t know if marriage is up there on my radar,” says Ms. Sturgess, who has signed up for online dating websites, tried speed-dating and has been set up by friends.
She likes meetup activity groups, not necessarily for dating, or singles meetups because, she says, they are great for connecting with new people and trying new things.
“You have to have a sense of adventure,” she says. “Never say no. I’m so grateful for all the wonderful experiences I’ve had.”
The number of people living alone in Canada has more than doubled over the last 35 years, from 1.7 million in 1981 to four million in 2016, according to Statistics Canada data – more than a quarter of them were age 65 and older. The report also shows the share of seniors living alone that were separated or divorced more than tripled, from nine per cent to 32 per cent over the 35-year period. Most senior women who lived alone were widows, while most senior men were separate or divorced, the report shows. It also shows men were “significantly” more likely than women to want to partner up.
Regardless of how serious a relationship someone is looking for, jumping back into dating after a long absence can be intimidating, says Rebecca Cooper Traynor, owner of Toronto matchmaker and dating coach service, Match Me Canada.
“Somebody who’s 60-plus years old … they are coming out of this long relationship and now they’re single and their life is entirely different than it used to be,” she says. “A lot of the initial stages of helping singles in that age group is helping them reconnect with themselves and helping them really get to know who they are, who they’re looking for and what’s important to them.”
Many are afraid, she says.
“Something that we hear from a lot of people coming out of long-term relationships, 60-plus, is they are terrified to get naked with somebody new. That comes up a lot,” she says. “We do a lot of coaching, helping people just feel more comfortable with themselves.”
Her oldest client was a 72-year-old man who found a relationship through her matchmaking service. However, she says that most of her clients are women over 60 looking for a committed relationship but want to maintain separate homes.
“They really just want to have a partner that they can enjoy the simple pleasures with,” she says. “A lot of times, they’re retired, their kids are launched … and it’s exciting to meet somebody. They can spend 20 years or longer with this person, in this new relationship and it’s a really exciting time.”
The proliferation of social media groups and online dating sites specifically for seniors underscores just how many baby boomers are looking for love.
Janet Charlebois, 69, of Pincourt, Que., started the Facebook group “Singles Over 60” to meet fellow silver singles, not necessarily for dating.
“I work part-time as a realtor, so my life was pretty full, but as a person who doesn’t like to be alone, I joined different online dating sites and Facebook singles groups in the hope that I might find someone with similar interests and who wanted a companion to enjoy retirement years with,” she says. “Over the years, some close friendships have formed and a few romances have blossomed,” she says.
In the past month alone, 385,000 Canadians aged 65 and over have visited an online dating site, says David Cravit, the chief membership officer for the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) and the vice-president of Zoomer Media Ltd.
“There’s a myth that seniors are not tech-savvy. That’s completely untrue,” he says. “And the ones who are single, either widowed or divorced, are looking to meet other people using the same technology that younger people are using.”
One-third of dating baby boomers have used apps like Tinder and Match, he says, while pointing out that every mainstream dating website has a section for mature singles – and many now specifically catering to seniors.
Local CARP chapters across Canada have hosted singles events ranging from dances to speed-dating as the demand for dating increases. However, during the pandemic, most activity has moved online.
It’s also a myth that people of a certain age lose interest in having sex, Mr. Cravit says.
“There’s no evidence of that whatsoever,” he says. “I’m not suggesting that sexual practices are as frequent or that what you’re doing in your 70s is what you were doing in your 20s, necessarily, but the interest is still there.”
People live longer, healthier lives, which has spurred many to live life to the fullest in their later years, he says.
“In the past, you might have been willing to accept a less-than-ideal circumstance in your life, because ‘what am I going to do? I’m going to start all over again? I’m 65,’” Mr. Cravit says. “But if you perceive at 60, 65, at 70, that you’ve got 30 years to go, and that many of those years can be lived in reasonably good health, you’re more likely to proactively seek a change.”
Ms. Sturgess met someone at the start of the pandemic and they decided to hunker down.
“I said, ‘Well, why don’t we just bubble up and make the best of this?” she says.
Since then, however, the pair decided to “release each other back into the universe” and Ms. Sturgess is dating again.