A Very Healthy Romance

Research Shows That Relationships Help Seniors Stay Healthy

With five previous marriages between them Syble Bachleda and Harvey Waldron, both retired, never thought at their age, they'd become involved in another relationship. They are engaged.

Bachleda, 69, has been divorced for three years. Waldron, 74, was married for 22 years.

But it happened. "If you don't have love, you don't have life," says Waldron.

Researchers say that being involved in such a relationship may keep older people healthier. Troy Roberts reports on how romance may help keep some seniors healthier.

"If an older person is alone, that's a red flag, that's a major risk factor," says Dr. John Rowe, a leading expert on aging. "That's more important to me than if their blood pressure is too high." He says that significant relationships for the elderly can make the difference between life and death.

This theory is supported by clinical studies on aging and relationships. The studies indicated that older men who had more emotional support had lower levels of stress hormones. Rowe says that in the studies, men benefited more than women.

There are, of course, some aspects of love that are mutually beneficial. Both Bachleda and Waldron say they like sex. "As long as they make Viagra, we got it made," Bachleda says with a laugh.

But older single people often have trouble meeting each other. Bachleda and Waldron were set up by a senior matchmaking service in Florida.

The company's average client is over 50, says Marie Massa, who runs the company, which is called Introductions Three. "Widowed, lonely people, people who have no family, they're seeking some companionship, they're seeking love again," she says.

Bob Eager, 70, is hoping Massa can set him up.

Says Eager: "I'd like somebody that I could put my arms around and say, 'Wasn't that a beautiful sunset' and 'You look nice tonight' and 'You smell good.'"

More On Marie Massa's Service
Find out more about Marie Massa's dating service.

Eager has been single for the past year, since his wife left him. He works full-time and is raising his 15-year-old daughter Dixie by himself. "I need somebody to love, to cherish, to care for and to share with," he says.

To find that someone for Bob, Massa and her daughters, who work with her parttime, actively search for potential dates, asking likely prospects in parking lots and gyms.

One day, Massa spotted Vera Johnson, a widow who was married for 38 years until her husband died in October 1999.

"It's still difficult but I'm at a point in my life where if I don't start living again, it will kill me," said Johnson, who had never dated before. "It's time in my life I did something different."

Before the blind date, Eager admits he is nervous. They go to a restaurant for a candle-light dinner. After two hours of talking, they realize that they have lost track of time.

Was the date a success? "She was very attractive, well kept," said Eager afterwards. He said he would ask her out again. Johnson was less sure, saying she needed time to think about it.

Rowe says that being in a relationship may be one of the keys to staying healthy as one ages. "It appears that social support and involvement helps you avoid disease and recover more quickly," he says. "And it certainly helps you maintain engagement with life. So it becomes a very central part of growing old successfully."

"Don't sit there and die," says Bachleda. "Just get out. Make life longer and better. Be happy."

Living Better Longer: Main Page