Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen
Additions/comments by Urologist Steven N. Gange, MD
Dating tends to be more associated with younger than older men, but new research shows that dating has both physical and mental health benefits that could make it an important part of life even as one gets older.
Social isolation–the phenomenon of an individual having no interaction with friends, family, neighbors, or even society as a whole–has been known to have harmful effects on the human psyche and can drive the isolated individual into depression, lack of self-care, or worse. This effect has been in the public eye much more recently; as COVID-19 forced millions of people into isolation, the onset of these effects was rapid, profound, and alarming.
Many of the effects of social isolation have been proven to be far from purely psychological. The American Psychological Association has linked social isolation to such things as sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, or the development or exacerbation of dependencies on cigarettes, alcohol, or other habit-forming substances. Those who are socially isolated are also found to be at greater risk of recklessness or self-harm and could even develop diagnosable disorders such as dementia, amnesia, or schizophrenia.
The solutions are almost always some variation on “take it off your mind,” with suggestions like taking up a hobby, enrolling in educational programs of some kind, and, as mentioned, going out more. Dating gives older people something to focus on, a goal to pursue and a potential relationship to enjoy, drawing them away from the many dangers of extended social isolation.
Dating has been shown to have physical effects on the human body as well. An actively dating individual is more likely to keep groomed and fit and actively pursue self-betterment in the hopes of making themselves more attractive to a potential partner. Many of these effects form a chicken-and-egg cycle with one another: the more well-kept and attractive the individual is, the more successful they are likely to be at dating and the more motivated they will be to continue doing so.
The benefits of dating can be felt whether or not one is successful. Any date–no matter what the results–will inspire the individual dating to improve themselves, regardless of age.
Dating Without Commitment
Dating does not necessarily mean seeking a long-term relationship or starting a household; it can be a health exercise instead of a romantic adventure, and one can pursue a relationship without feeling the need to commit to life. This is something that should be clarified as soon as possible, even before meeting another party; an open and honest communication of one’s expectations is among the most crucial things to bring into any dating scenario.
Additionally, if any sort of physical intimacy is expected, one should take extra care to protect against sexually transmitted diseases; these are found with noticeably greater frequency in older individuals. It is only fair to both yourself and your partner to ensure that both of you are protected.
Dating is not just for young men–dating can provide psychological and physical health benefits to older men as well.