Can love contribute to a long life?
Love in any way contributes to longevity and enhanced well-being. Studies have shown that doing things that provide meaning, such as volunteering, helps older folks feel a greater sense of meaning in life, as well as fewer reported symptoms of depression and anxiety. These types of feelings of gratification are called altruistic love, or love that puts others above the individual, and it extends beyond romantic love.
Finding romantic love later in life can also greatly benefit people. The type of positivity associated with love has been shown to boost the immune system. Things like hugging that happen between two people in love boost oxytocin. Studies show feelings of love help heart health and prevent feelings of anxiety. Researchers have also found that married people live longer. Falling in love later in life can provide a bevy of benefits.
Can loneliness affect our health?
A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) highlights that older adults are at increased risk for loneliness because, as we age, we usually lose a lot of family and friends. Some people live alone; some are prohibited from socializing due to chronic illness. The report says more than one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated.
There are some health risks associated with loneliness. Older, isolated adults are at a higher risk for dementia, heart disease and stroke. They’re more likely to experience depression and anxiety. And, of course, there are the more tangible effects of isolation – being alone and falling or suffering an accident without a partner to summon help. Overall, the NASEM report indicates that social isolation and acute loneliness put older adults at higher risk for premature death from all causes.
Is finding love later in life different from finding love earlier in life?
When you find love later in life, you know more of what you want and need in companionship. Also, you know and understand yourself more. This can be both a blessing and a curse, as sometimes this knowledge will make it more difficult to compromise, and sometimes as we age, it is easier to “not sweat the small stuff” and let things go.
There is a big generational effect as well, as older people typically don’t want to rely on or use technology like younger individuals are comfortable doing. As such, they need to meet people more in person or through activities. This can also be a challenge.
What could we learn about love through watching “The Golden Bachelor”?
Hopefully, it can break stereotypes and beliefs that we have about love as we get older in life, including what romance, physical intimacy and love itself looks like as we pursue love as we age.
How do you think it will differ from other typical dating shows?
Aspiration-wise, I would hope that it helps people move away from the salaciousness and physical aspects that typically attract people to these shows and demonstrates more of the beauty in finding love and romance.
Photo at top: ABC’s “The Golden Bachelor” stars Gerry Turner. (photo courtesy of ABC/Brian Bowen Smith)