Dating or Just Friends?

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“I’m single. Happily single,” said Fraydel Kravitz, a 13-year resident of Weinberg Village in Owings Mills. “And I am 88. A very young 88.”

Kravitz keeps a busy social schedule and although she has dated as a senior, she isn’t dating at the moment.

“But I wouldn’t mind meeting an older gentleman,” she said. “I do a lot of socializing. I go to six exercise classes, an art class, I was in the chorus, I play mahjong and cards. I’m very busy. I don’t sit home and twiddle my thumbs.”

The U.S. Census Bureau said there were 19 million unmarried U.S. residents 65 and older in 2015. And according to Nancy Kalikow Maxwell in a 2015 Forward article (“Dating at 62: A Cautionary Tale”), there are four times more widows than widowers over 65. “For Jews, the imbalance is even worse.”

Kravitz backs up those stats, estimating there are “three or four times as many single women as men” in her building. And while she said dating isn’t much different from when she was younger, there are challenges.

“Most men do not drive anymore in the evening. And I am not going to pick a man up to go on a date. I’m an old-fashioned person,” she said. “I like to be picked up and be wined and dined and have a pleasant evening and just say goodnight.”

At area senior apartments and centers there are myriad opportunities for socializing. At the Myerberg Center in northwest Baltimore, classes include tai chi, boxing, arts, history and humanities. There are films and field trips, billiards and bridge, classes to improve skills on Facebook and Google, iPads and smartphones. Senior Sundays with entertainment and kosher lunch bring people together.

At North Oaks in Pikesville, social activities include fitness and educational offerings, trips, films, live entertainment and monthly birthday parties for residents.

At Weinberg Village, seniors socialize with kosher meals, dances, classes, cards, billiards and computer lessons. Shuttle buses travel to nearby malls and the Jewish Community Center with special trips to dinners, plays and the symphony.

“When people sign up to do activities that they enjoy, whether it’s gardening or painting or chorus, they find other people with like interests,” said Gayle Newman, Weinberg’s director of activities. “That’s how so many of our seniors have hooked up with other seniors — by going and seeing who’s there and communicating.”

Linda Burstyn, coordinator of resident services, said although some residents are computer savvy and computer lessons are available, she doesn’t know of any seniors online dating.

“But we do provide a lot of opportunities for people who want to get out and meet people,” she said.

Deborah Schwartz, a Jewish Community Services therapist, said some younger seniors are experimenting with online dating.

“We never give up the need for companionship and love and attention.” — Gayle Newman, Weinberg Village director of activities

“The ones that are more savvy on the computer, they’ll go out there and try an adventure,” she said.

But Schwartz said she most often sees that seniors are satisfied with socializing and finding friends, as opposed to serious dating or commitment, especially women.

“Because they feel like perhaps they’re going to have to take care of someone if they get involved. And they’re done with that kind of thing,” she said. “It’s more they just want to have a social interaction and they don’t want to feel isolated.”

Rhona Rosenberg, 78, met a man at Weinberg Village through a friend.

“For about four years we dated. We went on a few trips together,” she said. “He died about two years ago this summer. He was a very nice person with a very nice family. We went to Shabbos services. We went out to lunch, to dinner, to movies, to all the things that young people do.”

Like her friend Fraydel, she still drives, stays active, volunteers at the Gordon Center and attends classes, including recently on klezmer music. She eats with the same group every Friday night. There are occasional Sunday breakfasts, Passover breakfast, seders and a big New Year’s Eve party.

Rosenberg said she doesn’t know any seniors who have tried online dating, but she encourages people to stay busy and get social.

“It’s much better that staying in your apartment and complaining all the time,” she said. “Some people who live here, I have known for years. Baltimore is such a cohesive Jewish community, everybody knows everybody else.”

No matter what age, whether dating or just seeking companionship, interacting with others can keep seniors engaged with life.

“We never give up the need for companionship and love and attention,” Newman said. “And I think that when people find someone to communicate with — they will dress better, be more active, feel younger.”

Kravitz said she’s still open to the possibilities, because “age is only a number.” The 88-year-old said she’s looking for a nice older man who still drives at night.

“If you can find anyone that fits that criteria, send him over,” she said, laughing.


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