Despite what some say, the experience of love doesn’t disappear as wrinkles show up. In fact, it can last a lifetime.
Society is full of preconceived ideas about the emotional life of senior citizens. However, the feeling of love doesn’t diminish with age, and many people over 65 say they’re still in love with their spouse — sometimes even more than they were on the first day.
We are so quick to extol youthful bodies and romances; the emotional and intimate life of the elderly is often thought of with disgust, suspicion or prejudice. Indeed, in a French study (which is credibly indicative of a more general reality), 43% of people – and one in two 18- to 35-year-olds – consider love and sex between older people to be a taboo in our society, according to an OpinionWay study for the Medicharme group published in January 2022.
“Young people are very conservative when it comes to the loving behavior of the elderly. Their view is much less open or tolerant than that of the elderly,” says sociologist Ronan Chastellier in the study.
But despite what some people in today’s society say, the feeling of love doesn’t disappear as wrinkles appear. It can even last a lifetime.
A love that lasts and lasts
The numbers speak for themselves: 94% of older people say they’re still in love with their spouse, 65% of whom are “completely in love,” according to the annual report of the Little Brothers of the Poor on the emotional, intimate, and sexual life of older people, published in October 2022.
While slightly more couples married for fewer than 10 years are in love than those who are older (76% vs. 64-65%), the data does illustrate that love is still there, both in their 60s and at 85. What’s more, this love lasts. Indeed, 58% of the couples surveyed have been together for more than 40 years, a situation that’s very prevalent among those aged 80 and over, since 83% of them have been married for many decades.
Marie and Gregory confirm this. They’ve been a couple since high school, have been married for 42 years, and are still very much in love. “We’ve known each other forever and yet I’m still learning about him,” says Marie, 68. “She’s the person I love most on this earth,” Gregory affectionately chuckles. At 70, he has no family left except for his wife and children.
The report documents a clear change with the arrival of old age: only 28% of those aged 85 and over are in a couple, compared with 59% of those aged 60 and over. This difference is largely due to the loss of a spouse, but even that doesn’t prevent love from crossing the boundaries of death. “I think about my wife every day. Once or twice a day, I think of her. I call her by her name,” says Edouard, 101 years old and widowed.
Routine doesn’t undermine your love life
“Let’s be honest: while we still love each other, our feelings have nothing to do with those we had when we were 20. But that doesn’t mean we love each other any less,” explains Marie.
These words echo those of the playwright Sacha Guitry, who said that “the most beautiful loves begin with champagne and end with herbal tea.” Indeed, although over the years the passionate love of the beginning gives way to a more mature love, this doesn’t mean that love and desire for the other are gone.
Approximately 91% of older married adults still feel desire for their partner, 56% of whom feel it as much as they used to, according to the report by Little Brothers of the Poor. The study also states that 71% of seniors say that an aging body can still be desirable.
To keep the flame alive after a lifetime of loving and supporting each other, seniors list a few essentials: shared activities, laughter, humor, and lastly, total trust that lets them share their hopes, joys, and worries.
And here’s a final blow to preconceived ideas about love among seniors: less than a third of people who have been together for more than 40 years mention a feeling of routine. And even though this feeling is more pronounced among those aged 75 and over (34% to 36% compared to an average of 27% for the entire population aged 60 and over), routine is good for a couple.
“Life is made up of these small daily pleasures of which we can get tired. Sometimes it’s only when we’re deprived of them that we appreciate their value,” said the priest and writer René Ouvrard four centuries ago.