GERMANTOWN, Md. - Mary Waldron, 83, isn’t afraid to tell the world about finding love the second time around with Billy Ball, 87, now her husband. “It sounds so ridiculous. I was as bad as any teenager. I was absolutely overcome that this wonderful thing happened at this point in my life. It was just incredible,” she gushed.
Waldron and Ball first met 14 years ago, while living with their spouses on the same floor but at opposite sides of their apartment building at Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg.
After both spouses had passed away, Waldron got up the courage to invite Ball to a Christmas party in 2005. “I was afraid he would say no and make me feel like a dunce, but he said yes immediately – and that if I hadn’t asked him, he would have asked me out,” she said.
Although few statistics track exactly how many older adults are finding love and even marriage in retirement communities, it’s not surprising that they are. A University of Missouri study shows about 500,000 Americans age 65 and older remarry each year (http://bit.ly/QiYLri).
AARP’s love and relationships expert Pepper Schwartz, a University of Washington sociologist, attributes these love stories to longer life, greater social acceptance and more evidence of the health and emotional benefits of a loving union.
Like many older couples, they thought about legal issues of getting married, like name changes on documents, and decided to just live together.
“We wrote our families a letter and mailed it all at the same time, telling them our intentions,” Waldron said. “About a year and a half later, in January 2008, Billy had a stroke. We didn’t know if he would live or die. It was very severe; he was hospitalized and rehabilitated. Almost a year later, we decided to get married, just the two of us, with our Episcopal priest. It goes to show you, it’s never over until it’s over.”
Frank and Peggy Brooks, residents of sister community Asbury Solomons in Solomons, Md., also found love again and married in 2002. Frank, 92, moved to the continuing care retirement community shortly after it opened in 1997 with his wife, who passed away several years later. “I thought that was it. I was satisfied,” he said. “My first wife was quite wonderful. I was not interested in getting married again.”
Peggy, 84, was living alone with a big house and yard three years after her husband’s death. Curiosity brought her to Asbury for a visit after driving by one day. “I didn’t even know what a retirement community was all about before then, but I decided it was the place for me,” she said. “I lived here for two years before Frank and I started dating. I always said I would never get married again. Well, Sir Galahad took my hand, and I changed my mind. He was such a gentleman. That made me love him even more.”
After many card games, dinners and social gatherings, they married and held their wedding reception in the retirement community’s clubhouse in the new south wing.
Both agree they can’t compare this with their previous loves because they’re in a different stage of life. “We talked about that. That life is no longer with us,” said Frank. “Let’s get on and live this life without concerns. We didn’t demand any change from the other person and still have our own activities.”
Peggy admitted, “I was scared to death [about starting another relationship]. But the last 10 years of my life have been absolutely wonderful. I don’t think we’re out of the ordinary. It just happened, and I think it’s wonderful. We hold hands. It was one year, two years and now 10!”
Asbury is an organization providing management and life-enhancing services for older adults. Asbury is ranked by LeadingAge and Ziegler Capital Markets Group's AZ 100 as the 15th-largest not-for-profit multi-site senior living organization in the country.