Question: I am a 68-year-old widow, fit and leading a full life. For one year, I have been dating a man living in a retirement community who is now recovering from a broken hip. That means he no longer can drive to my apartment. He wants me to move in with him, believes I need him and has spoken of marriage. I am resisting since I am not a retirement-community person and not sure about marriage. Any thoughts on how to resolve this?

Answer: Shakespeare said it well, “To thine own self be true.” Reaching the sixth decade of life has advantages. Most people at this point know how they want to live.

Yours is a generation of women who are independent and don’t necessarily need a man for financial security. Although being flexible is important, adaptability doesn’t work if it compromises one’s soul. Here is some information that may place your situation into a larger context.

Many women live alone in later life; it is the norm rather than the exception. Widowhood is the most common reason. Between age 65 and 74, almost three-quarters of women who live alone are widows. For those over 75, that jumps to 88 percent. Widowers often are eager to marry again, while widows seem to be more cautious about committing themselves.

Men have more opportunity to find the right match because there are many potential matches from which to choose. In the 65 to 69 age range, there are 83 men for every 100 women. The disparity increases with age. Among those 85 and older, there are 40 men for every 100 women. The line of women carrying casseroles to the new male resident makes demographic sense.

Myths about older single women as being lonely, shy and insecure still prevail. AARP challenged these stereotypes in the 2006 AARP Foundation Women’s Leadership Circle Study, based on 2,500 interviews of women age 45 to 90. Here are some of their findings:

Myth 1: Retirement is a time for single (older) women to slow down and “get a few more cats.”

Reality: About two-thirds of the women indicated their older years are a time to pursue their dreams and do things they always wanted to do. And 80 percent agreed that as they have gotten older, they are freer to be themselves.

Myth 2: Older women don’t care about their appearance.

Reality: Women without partners are very aware of their appearance and know it matters in our society. Nancy Etcoff, a psychology instructor at Harvard Medical School, is quoted in AARP The Magazine as finding that single women do pay more attention to appearances.

“In the dating world, physical appearances are always important,” she said. “You are judged by how you look.”

Myth 3: As single women get older, they regret the lack of family ties.

Reality: Unmarried women have strong family relationships. Many have stronger social support systems than those who are married. Eighty-eight percent of women in the AARP study reported they had friends they could depend on in times of crisis. The study also found that as women 45 to 59 got older, they were open to living with women friends.

Myth 4: All single (older) women are desperate to find a mate.

Reality: Given the choice, many older single women would like a relationship with a caring partner, someone with little emotional baggage. In AARP’s “Lifestyles, Dating & Romance: A Study of Midlife Singles,” researchers surveyed single women age 40 to 69. About one in 10 couldn’t “care less” about finding a man and another 14 percent indicated they weren’t going to “knock themselves out” to find him. Thirteen percent were “looking.”

The bad news is that the issue of age and poverty is essentially a women’s issue. Among older single women, poverty is twice as high compared to older single men. For women 75 and older, 13 percent live in poverty; for men it is 6 percent.

Your situation is a personal one. Consider a commuting relationship. Also consider the possible role you may have as a caregiver. If you are committed to this man, caring is part of the deal and hopefully it would be mutual.

Sara Ban Breathnach, author of the “Simple Abundance” books, writes, “The authentic self is the soul made visible.” Make your soul visible to you. Live the life you want, one that reflects your values.

Best wishes on making the right decision.

© Helen Dennis 2010, all rights reserved.

Question: I am a 68-year-old widow, fit and leading a full life. For one year, I have been dating a man living in a retirement community who is now recovering from a broken hip. That means he no longer can drive to my apartment. He wants me to move in with him, believes I need him and has spoken of marriage. I am resisting since I am not a retirement-community person and not sure about marriage. Any thoughts on how to resolve this?

Answer: Shakespeare said it well, “To thine own self be true.” Reaching the sixth decade of life has advantages. Most people at this point know how they want to live.

Yours is a generation of women who are independent and don’t necessarily need a man for financial security. Although being flexible is important, adaptability doesn’t work if it compromises one’s soul. Here is some information that may place your situation into a larger context.

Many women live alone in later life; it is the norm rather than the exception. Widowhood is the most common reason. Between age 65 and 74, almost three-quarters of women who live alone are widows. For those over 75, that jumps to 88 percent. Widowers often are eager to marry again, while widows seem to be more cautious about committing themselves.

Men have more opportunity to find the right match because there are many potential matches from which to choose. In the 65 to 69 age range, there are 83 men for every 100 women. The disparity increases with age. Among those 85 and older, there are 40 men for every 100 women. The line of women carrying casseroles to the new male resident makes demographic sense.

Myths about older single women as being lonely, shy and insecure still prevail. AARP challenged these stereotypes in the 2006 AARP Foundation Women’s Leadership Circle Study, based on 2,500 interviews of women age 45 to 90. Here are some of their findings:

Myth 1: Retirement is a time for single (older) women to slow down and “get a few more cats.”

Reality: About two-thirds of the women indicated their older years are a time to pursue their dreams and do things they always wanted to do. And 80 percent agreed that as they have gotten older, they are freer to be themselves.

Myth 2: Older women don’t care about their appearance.

Reality: Women without partners are very aware of their appearance and know it matters in our society. Nancy Etcoff, a psychology instructor at Harvard Medical School, is quoted in AARP The Magazine as finding that single women do pay more attention to appearances.

“In the dating world, physical appearances are always important,” she said. “You are judged by how you look.”

Myth 3: As single women get older, they regret the lack of family ties.

Reality: Unmarried women have strong family relationships. Many have stronger social support systems than those who are married. Eighty-eight percent of women in the AARP study reported they had friends they could depend on in times of crisis. The study also found that as women 45 to 59 got older, they were open to living with women friends.

Myth 4: All single (older) women are desperate to find a mate.

Reality: Given the choice, many older single women would like a relationship with a caring partner, someone with little emotional baggage. In AARP’s “Lifestyles, Dating & Romance: A Study of Midlife Singles,” researchers surveyed single women age 40 to 69. About one in 10 couldn’t “care less” about finding a man and another 14 percent indicated they weren’t going to “knock themselves out” to find him. Thirteen percent were “looking.”

The bad news is that the issue of age and poverty is essentially a women’s issue. Among older single women, poverty is twice as high compared to older single men. For women 75 and older, 13 percent live in poverty; for men it is 6 percent.

Your situation is a personal one. Consider a commuting relationship. Also consider the possible role you may have as a caregiver. If you are committed to this man, caring is part of the deal and hopefully it would be mutual.

Sara Ban Breathnach, author of the “Simple Abundance” books, writes, “The authentic self is the soul made visible.” Make your soul visible to you. Live the life you want, one that reflects your values.

Best wishes on making the right decision.

© Helen Dennis 2010, all rights reserved.