Finding Love: The Best Date Ideas for Seniors on a Budget

finding love

It’s never too late for love!

Older adults know a thing or two about dating and marriage. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 95% of men and women over the age of 70 have been married. Among those between the ages of 60 and 69, 91% of men and 92% of women have been married. And many of them remained in their marriages for a long time – among those who wed in the 1970s, at least half of them reached their 25th anniversary[1].

But unfortunately, divorce is also commonplace. About 43% of men and women between the ages of 55 and 64 years old have experienced divorce[2]. The “gray divorce rate” is a national trend of divorce among those aged 50 or older, and that number has risen since the 1990s[3].

But divorce is not the only reason someone might choose to start dating again later in life; among those aged 75 or older, 58% of women and 28% of men had experienced the death of a spouse. These widows and widowers might choose to eventually dip their toes back into the dating pool. (Why the large discrepancy between the numbers of men and women who have lost a spouse? According to the CDC, that’s because women have a higher life expectancy than men do.)

A 2013 study from the Journal of Marriage and Family found that dating can be a wonderful thing for older individuals. Those who are hitting the dating scene tend to be in better health and have better social connections. And of course, dating helps alleviate social isolation and feelings of loneliness, which contribute to overall better health for anyone, no matter their age[4].

Tips for Seniors Dating on a Budget

One of the challenges of dating as an older individual is that you might be on a tight budget. If you are living carefully on retirement income and social security, you may not have a big budget for dating and entertainment. You might choose the more affordable end of the medical alert technology spectrum, opt to drive your old vehicle for longer than you might have otherwise, or choose to avoid frivolous purchases. If you’re looking to maintain your savings but still wanting to go on some fun dates, here are a few great options.

·         The classic picnic. This is a tried-and-true date that couples the world over enjoy every day – and the best part is that by making your own food to pack into that lovely basket, you’ve saved a ton of money before you even hit the road to a great picnic spot. The picnic also gives you quiet time, just the two of you, to talk about everything under the sun and make sure you’re compatible for the next date (or two, or ten).

·         Visit an art gallery. This great daytime date can be had with the purchase of a few passes – and don’t forget to use your senior discount! This is another way for the two of you to wander about and discuss a wide variety of topics while enjoying the artwork. Besides that, it has a certain understated romantic vibe that can bring you closer together from the first moments you say hello.

·         Go to a tasting. Whether it’s the hot new brewery in town, the elegant winery, or the opportunity to learn more about whiskey, bourbon, and other hard liquors, those who enjoy a bit of imbibing might like this date idea. A tasting is often free or very low cost. If the place offers tours, you can get to see how the product is made, and maybe take home a small sample.

·         Take a community class. Often offered by local community centers or colleges, these classes are usually very low cost or even free, especially for seniors. Look for a class that teaches you the basics of certain cooking cuisines, allows you to paint something, or gives you an opportunity to cut a rug on the dance floor.

·         Double date dinner at home. Keep things simple and easy by offering to cook at your place. Make sure to double date with someone close to you for safety – this is a new potential partner, after all, and you don’t know them that well – and plan on all four of you having a wonderful discussion over dinner, dessert, and maybe a bit of wine.

·         Go to the drive in theater. If you have one of these in your neck of the woods, congratulations! Drive-in theaters are a wonderful touch of nostalgia that can take you back to the good old days and lead to great conversations. As a bonus, you can sometimes get a two-for-one movie deal at a great price.

·         Go on a hike. If you have a recreational area near your home, invite your date out for some exercise. Plan on a slow and easy hike so you can talk with each other instead of getting so winded that you can’t speak freely. (And of course, don’t forget to wear your medical alert watch or pendant – they are much more attractive these days than they were in years past!)

·         Try mini golf. No, this incredibly fun activity is not just for kids! Line up the putter and get ready for a date filled with laughter. This is a great way to get to know someone’s personality – do they get frustrated easily? Can they laugh at themselves? Do they offer friendly teasing but never any rudeness? It’s a great way to decide if someone might be right for you.

·         Get some live music. Are you both into the same music? Do you like some of the same artists? If that’s the case, try out a jazz club, piano bar, or even a college symphony event. This date can cover the gamut from fun and rocking to quiet and elegant, depending upon the mood of the music. And quite often you can get in free or with a small cover charge.

·         Dive into controversy. Are you both of the same political bent? Seeing someone lecture on a variety of political topics, joining a political rally or volunteer night, or otherwise putting your political ideals center stage can light you both up with purpose and give you a unique date that doesn’t cost a dime.

·         Wander botanical gardens. Many areas have expansive botanical gardens, where you can enjoy a touch of nature right in the middle of the hustle and bustle. These beautiful places allow you the time to wander among the flowers and plants while you talk about whatever comes to mind. Some of these are entirely free, but if they’re not, don’t forget the power of that senior discount.

·         Hit the bike trail. If you’re both the athletic kind, meet up on the local bike trails and take a ride through the city or the wilderness. Plan out a small lunch along the way to give you a chance to get into deeper conversation. (As always, keep your medical alert pendant with you at all times – a tumble on the bike trail without help close at hand could be enough to ruin your date, to say the least!)

·         Ask 36 questions. Many couples swear by the 36 Questions that Lead to Love. Originally published in the New York Times, these questions focus on the things that really matter in life and allow you to get to know someone on a deeper level rather quickly. Combine this with a lovely brunch picnic and you’ve got a recipe for a budding new relationship.

·         The classic coffee date. It might seem like a cliché at this point, but it still works – meeting up to grab a cup of coffee and talk over the steaming drink is a great way to get to know someone. It’s quite inexpensive, offers no pressure and gives you the opportunity to decide if you want to duck out quickly after meeting or stay through dinner.

·         Choose a tour. No matter where you live, you can often find a tour of something. It might be a tour of a museum, a walking tour sponsored by the historical society, or a tour based on a particular theme, such as walking the streets to see lovely homes decorated for the holidays. A tour gives you the chance to talk with each other while learning something new.

·         Go to the zoo. Many zoos offer a good discount for seniors or even free days for those over a certain age. There’s plenty of exercise to be had and unique animals to see. In many zoos, you can even pack your own lunch cooler and enjoy a picnic on the grounds.

·         Hit up the cheap movies. Many movie chains offer half-price days for seniors and many free perks, such as free sodas or popcorn if you are over a certain age. Take your ID to prove it and sit down to enjoy the latest comedy, thriller, or romantic movie – then plan on talking about it afterward.

·         Look to the stars. There are a few options for this, depending upon your comfort level. The most affordable option is taking your binoculars out to an area with little light pollution and watching the stars – if it happens to be on a night when meteor showers are happening, even better! If you don’t have an area with little light pollution, you can often find observatories at colleges and universities that offer nights for the public to come in and enjoy the show for free.

No matter what your choice of date, never forget to keep your on-the-go button alarm right there on your wrist, belt clip, or around your neck. You’ll have the peace of mind, no matter where your dating travels take you on the journey to love.