‘Getting married rejuvenated me’: the over-65s tying the knot

The number of people getting married over the age of 65 has increased in the past decade, according to the latest figures by the Office for National Statistics. The Guardian spoke to three couples about online dating, remarrying in later life and why it is important to be hopeful.

Stuart and Ruth Riley, 81 and 72, Morecambe

Stuart: It’s a funny story as all my wives have been Soroptimists [members of a voluntary organisation for women who fight for the rights of women and girls]. My first wife died suddenly in 2012 after 48 years of marriage. I married for the second time in 2015, aged 75, and my second wife died eight months later of cancer, which was diagnosed a few days before our wedding.

Ruth: I was very good friends with his second wife and we met at her funeral. I wasn’t too sure who he was and when I asked a friend they said: “Get your hands off him, he’s the grieving widower!” Stuart was giving his business card to everyone, asking us to stay in touch, and when I got home I thought I’d get in touch to see how he was. We met for coffee and the second time I met him I stroked his cheek – that was the moment I fell in love.

Stuart: She had decided she would never marry again, so I feel very honoured that she changed her mind for me – we got married in 2019. Our wedding was held at the local hospice where we were both volunteers. It was Alice in Wonderland-themed and my best man from my first wedding [in 1964] was there and we raised about £1,000 for the hospice. What does it mean to me? I have someone to love who loves me and we will share our lives and our love for ever and a day. Can’t say more than that.

Ruth: Every now and again he surprises me, and that’s great. In a marriage, particularly at our age, to meet somebody is remarkable. Tell the grandmothers and grandfathers to hang on in there. They’ll meet the one and they will just know. There are men like Stuart out there – they just need mining.

Christine Dickinson, 67, and Rob Lewer, 73, Campagne-sur-aude, France

Christine: I met my husband on an internet dating site. He is English but already lived in rural France, and the lifestyle appealed to me. His profile was cleverly written, embellished with log fires and glasses of wine. I fell right into the trap. After some email conversations, it became clear that there was a spark between us.

Our first meeting was at Liverpool airport. He’d have liked a romantic weekend in Paris, but I couldn’t travel because of my two dogs. So he flew over and I stood out of sight, with the view that if he was really dreadful I would do a runner. But he wasn’t. We were nervous for the first few minutes, but after that it went from strength to strength and he stayed for three days.

I left England to join him in France after one month and three meetings – when you know, you know! My friends thought I was crazy to leave the UK for a man I’d just met. I’d had a difficult 20-year marriage which had broken down in 2013, but we knew we were right for each other. At the time he was officially still married, though long estranged, so we had no thoughts of getting married and would have been unable to anyway.

However, his divorce came through and he asked me to marry him out of the blue and we got married in July 2019. I was so happy as I thought that after my last experience, he wouldn’t want to take that risk again – but getting married rejuvenated me. The civil ceremony was conducted at the local mairie in French. It was very informal and we were able to choose the date and time as it was the only wedding that year. The evening was intimate and fun – only eight guests at a French chambre d’hôte in a nearby village, Alet les Bains, which we go back to every year for our anniversary – two years so far.

Sylvia and David Morgan, 77 and 75, Lincoln

Sylvia: We were both dating online and had been for a couple of years. Although I loved my life in my little two-up, two-down cottage, busy travelling and making art, I wanted to have a male friend to have the odd meal out or coffee with. I thought I’d give it one last chance and that’s when I met David in August 2016. We spoke for a little while on the phone and he invited me to a steampunk festival in Lincoln. I thought it was a good idea because if he was awful I could just get lost in the crowd. I thought he looked all right when I saw him and apparently he said something like “Jackpot!” when he saw me. There was an instant connection and we just chatted and chatted.

He would drive for an hour to see me, and when things got more serious, I spoke to my daughters and said I was quite happy on my own after being single for 15 years. My youngest daughter replied: “Mum, you have had your three score years and ten – you are on borrowed time, get on with it!”

We married in Lincoln register office with children, grandchildren and my best friend present, 19 in all, and my two teenage grandsons gave me away. Life after marriage has been wonderful – we fit, have our own interests, share all the jobs, and say ‘I love you’ every day. We’re trying to make as many memories as possible in the time that we’re together and we consider ourselves so fortunate to have found each other.




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