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When Did I Get Old?

I was shopping with a friend who’s in her  70s for some new bedding. She found a pretty chenille bedspread that she holding up and I (stupidly) made a nasty comment that it looks like something a 80-year-old would buy.

My friend reminded me that she is almost 80. Fortunately, looks don’t kill.

As I thought about this, I realized I associate chenille with my grandmother who used these bedspreads. Than I realized I am now my grandmother’s age when I used to stay overnight with her.

How did that happen?

I can’t make any more sarcastic remarks about the elderly or 80-year-olds since I am basically one of them.

I don’t feel old except when I look in the mirror, but I realize to younger people, I am already elderly.

Will my mental age ever match my chronological age? We’ll see.

Making Friends When You’re Shy

An email asked me for tips on making friends when you’re an introvert and recently retired to a new location.

The tips aren’t any different now than they were when we were younger.  Do the same things you would if you were 25 instead of 65 (without hitting the bars).

  • Volunteer – I’ve made many friends over the years volunteering at local animal shelters. These places always need people willing to walk dogs or clean crates.
  • Take a class – Lots of schools offer classes for seniors. In many states, seniors can audit any college class without paying a fee. Community colleges are great places to take interesting classes at nominal prices and meet like-minded people.
  • Be active in your community – If you live in a senior or retirement community, volunteer for the newcomers club or garden club or tour guide, whatever will get you out and meeting people.
  • Walk the dog – I’ve met more of my neighbors and eventually made more friends doing this than any other one activity. You know you have something in common (love of canines) and dog owners like to have a few people they can trade off dog-sitting.
  • Try online dating sites if you’re looking for someone to date. Read http://womenretiringalone.com/?cat=1 before you do.
  • Go on a trip – there are companies that offer tours just for singles. Take a weekend trip to a nearby attraction. There’s always Road Scholars (formerly Elderhostel) which are very welcoming and always have some singletons on the trips.
  • Play Bingo – I had a neighbor who met a nice widower at Bingo and married him a year later. My senior community offers bus trips to a nearby Indian casino and the buses are always filled.

If you meet someone at one of above that you think you’d like to get to know better (as a friend or for romance), suggest you both try a new restaurant for lunch or go the latest blockbuster movie or attend a local art exhibit. Whatever is current and interests you.

I realize that may be difficult for an introvert, but no one makes friends sitting at home alone. Put yourself out just a little bit. Ask questions of your new friend and solicit his/her opinions. Offer a little bit of your own background or how you came to like your common interest. Don’t monopolize the conversation (so easy to do when you don’t talk to people very often) but remain interested in other people.

Developing friendships take time but friends are vital to enjoying the retirement years. Put yourself out just a little.

Dating for Grown-Ups

Online dating is on my mind, not because I’m doing it but because a woman in our senior community recently was scammed out of $500 by someone she met online.

Her scammer played her well. He spent six weeks in normal email exchanges before he claimed to be really, really interested in her. At that point, he raised the first major red flag that any woman or man should note. He asked her to email with her personal account rather than going through the online dating service. Unfortunately, she did.

Normal but increasingly romantic (not steamy or sleazy) emails followed. The third month, he asked her to buy an iPad that he could give to his son because it was the boy’s birthday (the man said he was divorced and alimony/child support had drained him) and he would pay her back with his next paycheck. My neighbor sent the iPad to the address he gave and never heard from him again.

Yes, she did contact the police and the postal inspectors. The address he gave was a commercial mail box which he rented for three months using phony identification. It’s unlikely she’ll ever see her $500 again and given that he asked for an iPad, it’s likely her gentleman suitor was really some snarky little teenager getting his kicks and free merchandise from lonely aging women.

This story, and worse ones you’ll read in the news media, shouldn’t stop you from using online services. One 2013 study found that 10% of current couples had met each other through dating sites and almost 70% of those in relationships said they wouldn’t hesitate to use online dating if they found themselves single again.

It should, however, convince you to follow the common sense protections when you meet someone over the Internet. Popular dating sites include eHarmony, OurTime (for singles over 50), and Match.com

Here are some tips for safe online dating:

  • Use a paid service – For-free dating websites are magnets for all kinds of shady characters. You don’t have to have a valid credit card or disclose any true information to get an account. What do you expect from a site like that?
  • Never reveal your full name – Don’t give out any personal information such as birth date, address or employer that could be used for identify theft.
  • Ask to see a photo – Yes, a scammer may use a phony but a photo of a George Clooney look-alike probably means you’re dealing with a scammer. You want to see non-studio, candid photos. If it’s too good to be true, it isn’t.
  • Email only through the dating website – Don’t do as my friend did and give out your true email. Some people may want to save money by dropping the online service but using a service offers protection that a regular email account does not. If you’re dealing with a scammer, he’s likely to drop you when you refuse to give out a regular email. Good riddance.
  • Take it seriously – Be an active user of the website and take advantage of whatever tools the website offers. Some are sponsoring group events where you can meet users face-to-face. Some have active sub-networks where you can join groups with the same specialized interest you have. Meeting Mr. Right or Meeting Mr. Good Enough to Go Places With is mostly a numbers game. Very little ever comes to those who do nothing but sit and wait for it.
  • Always, always meet in public places – You’re mother told you 50+ years ago to never get in a car or enter the home of a stranger. That’s still good advice today. Be very, very cautious in dealing without some you only know through the internet. Start out meeting for coffee (no point in spending a dinner evening with someone where there’s no chemistry). If coffee was OK, try a lunch. Then dinner.  Don’t let your online date pick you up or take you home. Take a cab if necessary.
  • Never, never send money to someone you haven’t met in person – If an online date asks you for money, no matter how plausible or heartbreaking the story, it’s a scam. Report it to the dating site (that’s why they ask you to use a regular email) and move on.