While romance kindled in the senior care center appears to be rare, it can be a joy to behold. Call it second love.
According to Augustana resident Dennis Peterson, “It’s unusual to see new romance here. But it’s always a wonderful feeling seeing an older couple walking along together holding hands.”
Having experienced it first hand, this blogger is in full agreement.
Wondering also how a pastor might view romance in the care center, I handed some interview questions, in writing to save time, to Rev. Sarah Karber, chaplain for Augustana’s 300-plus residents. She responded with several positives and some downside points about second love.
“Finding a person who is also growing within the aging process can be helpful in discussing similarities and difference,” responded Rev. Karber, adding, “A relationship can expand your social support network, provide a partner to explore new experiences with, and can increase one’s mental activity.
“There is less pressure on dating, more on companionship and shared interests rather than on finding “the one,” observes the pastor.
June Englund and her husband became Augustana residents in 1988. June is still here. In the early years, June became aware of four couples that courted and eventually married. Each had been married before,” It seemed brave to me for them to take on the potential for emotional loss again, having gone through it in their first marriages,” said June.
After she became a widow, did June herself experience a second love in the care center? “Well, yes,” she responded. “But it did not become very serious.”
Augustana resident Shirley Anderson related that her own second love began 30 years ago and ended just last October 25. Engaged in recovery from the loss as we talked, she explained, “To move on you have to have a forgiving heart. Also, it is possible to love two people at the same time.”
Dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease showed its impact on relationships to our first woman U.S. Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Her husband, also a lawyer, exhibited symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and Justice O’Connor placed him in a skilled nursing facility. When she returned to visit some time later she observed that her husband had innocently coupled with another woman, also Alzheimer-afflicted. The two were standing together holding hands.
On the negative side of, “senior romance in the care center, Rev. Karber notes that heartbreak itself can be strenuous on the literal heart muscle. Also, aging isn’t a linear process and no two persons age the same. The changes at different rates can cause additional stress to both.”
The usual need for thorough communication is even more essential in senior relationships: “Things like knowing the other person’s medical decisions are vital. “Make sure you have conversations about who has medical power if something goes wrong.”
The chaplain councils, “Life was created for living and living fully. If you find someone who encourages you to live more fully at any age they are likely to be someone you will want in your life.”
Paraphrasing the widely quoted verse about the risk of falling in love, ”. . . . Better to have loved and lost,“ Rev. Karber notes, “Built as sociable animals, we need one another. It is better to risk sadness than to ignore the possible joy.”
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