This post must begin with a confession…for a good part of my life I believed “older” people lived on a different emotional planet, an asexual planet devoid of romance, free from desire. It didn’t seem feasible to me that someone in midst of their golden years could actually experience all those tingly feelings that come from the infatuation of a new love. However, I also never deduced exactly when it was that this human characteristic was lost, but certainly by the 8th or 9th decades! Surely the feelings experienced when pheromones flooded our bloodstream were limited to those of us under a certain age. Surely.
I am elated to report, with the bold crash of a dozen cymbals, how gravely mistaken I was. It’s been with a sense of pure delight that I’ve been witness to my dear friend and neighbor falling in love. Oh, did I mention that she’s at the tail end of her 70’s and he’s in his mid-80’s? Even though they’re now further along life’s path, her description of the emotions experienced strike me as precisely the same feelings as anyone who’s ever fallen in love.
I’ve learned there’s even a scientific explanation for these feelings and it’s all about brain chemicals. They’re undoubtedly experiencing the brain’s release of dopamine, associated with the brain’s “reward” pathways and also oxytocin, the “love hormone” (mentioned in my last post), which increases the effects of our emotions. The release of these brain chemicals insures a desire to experience more of it! What a marvel that our magnificent brains can enjoy this feeling of “love” at any age.
Their courtship began a couple of years ago, a few years after the death of their beloved first spouses. For my friend, until recently, it was not a courtship, but a friendship, as she stood firm in her belief that she’d never remarry. One day, that all changed. One day last summer, she decided she was going to hold his hand.
I noticed the dozen beautiful red roses on her dining room table one afternoon in the late autumn, a gift to celebrate they’d taken their friendship to a new level. What began with a bit of handholding had progressed. It was as if she’d at last let down her guard and opened herself to the possibility of new beginnings. She sheepishly confessed to me that, until it’d happened again, she’d no idea how much she’d sorely missed being held in someone’s arms. She encouraged me to write about it and tell everyone it’s never too late to fall in love. It was shortly thereafter, with stars in their eyes, they became engaged. Our neighborhood watched with joy in the ensuing weeks as the newly engaged couple was often spotted walking arm-in-arm, albeit slowly, to the neighborhood coffee shop, 4 blocks away.
They are now newlyweds, getting ready to leave on their second honeymoon, as the first one proved too short! They are positively giddy in their joy. Watching them hold hands, it’s easy to sense the genuine pleasure they feel as a new couple. There are giggles, merriment and joie de vivre in simply being alive. My dear friend shared with me this is the best of marriages, with no distractions from jobs or children. Their only plan is to enjoy each other, as each day moving forward is a gift…a gift of time they will share together.
So, I’m here to tell you that romantic love is alive and well…at any age.