The benefits of being single over 50

19 July 2016

Virginia Ironside explains why the single life can be a huge benefit in later life, and why she wouldn't give up her freedom.



There are loads of excellent things about getting older, and not to have one’s life being ruled by an erratic and wilful sex-drive is, for me, one of them. When, at 70, Kingsley Amis finally lost his libido, he said, apparently: “Thank God! Now I realise I’ve been chained to an idiot for the last 60 years of my life!”

I mean, there are so many problems connected with sex. Fancying your best friend’s husband; not wanting sex when your best-beloved does want it – or, even worse, the reverse; pretending to have an orgasm when you didn’t; worrying about whether you’re doing it well enough or whether anyone might spot you for a fraud; finding yourself surreptitiously ogling young men’s bottoms.

Yes, I know it can be wonderful but, as far as I’m concerned, I’ve had enough long-term lovers to last me a lifetime, enough sex to last me a couple of lifetimes, and enough one-night stands to last me – well, I won’t say how many lifetimes.

And, though I won’t say I’m completely ruling out any more, I quite honestly wouldn’t be sorry if I never found myself in bed with anyone ever again.

The benefits of a single life

It’s not just because, physically, it simply isn’t as enticing. After the menopause sex can turn a bit ouch-making for women, unless they’re stuffed to the gills with hormone replacement therapy.

Find out about how sex changes for women over 50

And it’s not just because I revel in the joy of having a bed to myself – no more having to trail up to the spare room because of the snoring; no more having to crawl down to a cold sitting room in the middle of the night in case I wake a bloke up by reading; no more bitter arguments when he insists on turning on Radio 4 at 7am and then sleeps all the way through it.

And no, I’m not turning into some old prune who never wears make-up and who lives in trackie-bottoms. Far from it. I am never to be seen anywhere except in a skirt and I’m usually fully made-up. I love looking good – even my dressing gown is glamorous. I still love flirting with men, but how much more fun it is when both of you know that, because of your age, it’s unlikely to lead to any disastrous relationship. How very comfortable it is to find that you can be friends with men, without that constant sexual tinnitus rustling away in the background threatening disaster. How excellent it is for one’s married friends to know that, when they’re away, their partners are entirely safe in your hands – which will, now, be kept entirely to yourself.

It’s said that it’s unfair that men can go around with younger women and not cause a murmur, and yet older women can’t be seen with younger men without being thought, well, rather disgusting. But I don’t think that’s true. If you’re 100 years old and still love sex, and can still find it, good for you, whatever age you are. But nobody likes to see anyone desperate for sex.

And while desperation is understandable in a young man or a young woman under 30, there is a moment at which the craving becomes rather – well, undignified. There’s a name for men who, well into their seventies, constantly grope women – dirty old men. And I don’t see why the same shouldn’t apply to predatory older women.

There is an argument that passion should continue till the day you die, that without it, you’re dead in the water. But I’d like to put the case for tranquillity – the reward of serenity after a life of emotional rough and tumble. Perhaps those who still crave sexual passion after 60 didn’t get enough of it when they were younger.

Read about mature sex – the last taboo

New passions

As I get older, I find new passions – if passion is the right word. I find much more pleasure in nature than I used to, and I notice dozens of my contemporaries suddenly finding a strange interest in gardening and the colour of autumn leaves and sunsets. That’s just how things are. That’s what happens when you age: your interests change.

And, of course, I find a powerful passion for my grandchild, a passion that is far deeper and more satisfying than any moment of ecstasy with a gorgeous lover.

Sweating and moaning with sexual pleasure – or sitting quietly watching television while I baby-sit my sleeping grandson, occasionally stroking his tiny hot head, his fontanelle still throbbing, his hair just a silent whisper on his skin, smelling his talcum-powdery smell, listening to his tiny little breaths. No contest.

Read our tips for adjusting to living by yourself

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