Beating the pandemic of loneliness


By Alicia Doyle

Sunday Signal Staff Writer

When it comes to dating, older adults are no different from other age groups who are seeking a relationship and companionship with a significant other.

Unfortunately, “the reality is that seniors have become even more isolated during the pandemic,” said Robin Clough, senior advocacy, care manager and volunteer coordinator for the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center.

“The pandemic has put dating on hold for many single seniors,” Clough said. “The challenges of having connections to other people during COVID-19 – not just for dating but any type of social interaction – has created a pandemic of loneliness.”

Since the pandemic hit, attendance in senior center support groups and telephone reassurance and wellness calls has increased dramatically, she said. “Homebound seniors are especially grateful for the Meals on Wheels volunteers, because they are often the only person they see that day.”

Pre-pandemic, seniors would congregate in the senior center’s Bella Vida Ballroom for lunch, to chat with friends and meet new people.  

“Halls were filled with lively chatter of those headed to classrooms and activity rooms or just meeting up to socialize,” Clough recalled. “Friendships and even dating prospects occurred organically.”  

Seniors were uplifted and relieved to return to a sense of relative normalcy when classes –following strict protocols – were recently offered. These classes are currently on pause, “but the positive impact from social opportunities was profound,” Clough said.

The need for closeness and connection is highlighted more than ever during the pandemic, so “it is vital that older adults have someone to share time with, especially during these stressful times,” said Clough, adding that the senior center offers Zoom classes, activities and social groups to provide social stimulation and mitigate loneliness.

For instance, seniors can chat virtually with old friends or meet new ones in social programs such as “Zooming with Friends” and “Table Talk.”  

“It does not replace in-person, but certainly plays a significant role,” said Clough, who encourages older adults to take advantage of FaceTime and Zoom, which make it possible for folks to dine and watch a movie together virtually.

Other ways for older adults to meet virtually include online dating apps and platforms that are designed for older adults. For instance, OurTime is an online dating community for folks in their 50s, 60s and older who are looking for relationships. It’s free to join and offers a 14-day trial subscription, with paid premium subscriptions starting at $29.99 per month.

Another platform, SilverSingles, is for men and women over the age of 50 seeking companionship, with monthly plans starting at $19.95 per month. EliteSingles also offers a free online dating service for those 50 and older, and members who want a few more features can upgrade to the premium dating service for a fee. For those seeking “intimate encounters,” SeniorSizzle is designed for mature singles who want to incorporate passion in their lives.

“Above all, be safe and follow all COVID-19 precautions and protocols,” Clough emphasized. She also warned: “Be cautious of scams if you use dating apps.”

Such scams are also known as “romance scams,” according to the FBI, which warns that romance scams occur when a criminal takes on a false identity to gain a victim’s trust and attention. These criminals are experts, “and will seem genuine, caring and believable,” and are prevalent on dating sites.

“If someone you meet online needs your bank account information to deposit money, they are most likely using your account to carry out other theft and fraud schemes,” the FBI warns. “If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop all contact immediately.”

For seniors uninterested in dating apps, “try the online and future in-person senior center activities and events to stay engaged, have fun and meet people,” Clough said. “If you are technology-challenged, we can assist.”

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