Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1141, 28 March - 3 April 2013
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1141, 28 March - 3 April 2013

Ahram Weekly

Ageless ‘amour’

They say the world loves a lover, but not what age the lover should be.  Society associates love with the young rather than the young at heart, yet the ability to love does not disappear with aging.  Many do not look kindly on old love, considering it inappropriate for the elderly.  Prejudices and paradoxical feelings are prevalent in a society that defines who is old and at what age we become old. But age has taken different forms through the march of Time, and today 70 is considered yesterday’s 40.  The tag given the old by society has been duly rejected, as they prove that they cannot be forbidden to love.

Viewing the recent Oscar-winning film AMOUR will erase all prejudices and misconceptions about old love and old lovers.

Winner of the Palme d’OR  at the Cannes Film Festival last May, Amour was written and directed by Austrian auteur Michael  Haneke, well-renowned for his explorations of the human spirit and its ability to cope with adversity.  The story revolves around a couple in their 80s, retired music teachers, Georges, (jean Louis Trintignant) and his wife Anne, (Emmanuelle Riva).  Together for over half a century, the couple is as much in love now as they were in their 20s.  They seem deeply happy and contented as they walk home from a concert performed by one of Anne’s students.   Suddenly Anne suffers the first of two strokes that leave her helpless and bedridden.  Georges’ love and care are unconditional.  His tenderness and devotion demonstrate how love remains, romantic, passionate and vibrant at any age.

 Ever grateful for each other’s presence, their love is their life-maintaining force.  This togetherness is the strength they use to cope with disease, depression, despair and death.  Old age is not love’s enemy.  Disease is.

The film brings to the fore the possibility, even the legitimacy of romantic love among the elderly.

During the last two decades scientific research has explored love among senior citizens. The result is a far cry from the image of grey-haired old folk, whiling away their hours on rocking chairs.

With the health and life expectancy improving at such a rapid space, seniors have multiple opportunities to create new relationships­—make friends, travel, spend, study, get married, get divorced and yes, fall in love, just like younger folk do. Emotions and the ability to fall in love do not disappear with age. According to psychologist I. Bergman, (1988), an older lover, mad with love would be quite prepared to” paint the trees, or reach the stars”.

In a study conducted by Karina Maata of the University of Lapland, published in the International Review of Social Sciences and Humanities in 2011, explores how the old (aged 50-91) describe their experiences of falling in love.  Their revelations are as romantic, as virginal, as joyous and as dolorous as adolescent love.  Researchers embarking on this love expedition among the old find it filled with beauty, euphoria and erotica. Older lovers indeed desire as much as young lovers do. They too yearn for the sight and the touch of their loved ones, even if expressions may differ.  One hundred and seventeen aging lovers volunteered to write letters describing their passions to Maata et al.  Robert, 68, wrote:”Love ignites when it ignites”, and Susan 70 expressed the same feeling:” Love comes when it comes. I was endowed with it”. Most of the participants told of their new love in old age.  To some, falling in love was an experience that never took place until old age. John, 50, who had recently fallen in love, decided to write because: “ I have had emotional thrills I thought would belong only to adolescence”.

 Even love at first sight is described by the elderly as “instant obsession”, “fascinated”, “charmed”, “head in a whirl”,” mixes up your intestines”, descriptions of 85-91 year olds, not 18- 22 year olds.  Love also involves plenty of suspicion, insecurities, helplessness, doubt.  When in love the experience of old age falls on the wayside, and the elderly act like children.

While the body may start to decay, old lovers only see Perfection.  Wrinkles and cataracts fade. Fascination of love never fades. Even the oldest among the participants in the study illustrated the power of the emotional charge, demonstrating “how strongly Amour’s arrow can touch one”.

Basic needs do not disappear with age. Love is a basic need.  Interest in the opposite sex is natural. We do not lose our gender with aging, 

Seeing elderly lovebirds dancing and romancing may be displeasing to some.  There are many myths and clichés about seniors.  The attitudes and slant can be surprisingly cruel.  Elders can become the laughing stock driving them to hide their relations to avoid gossip.  The young shall grow old one day and should not sit in judgment of what they know not.

Falling in love is indeed “a many-splendoured thing” as defined in the 1952 novel by Han Suyi.  The need to love and be loved is unquestionable.   Free from the stress of earning a living and the pressures of raising a family, the elderly are free to love with self abandonment.

Love improves health, energy, happiness and excitement. The mind is reborn, and aches and pains go unnoticed.

Give in to the adored phantom of your imagination. Live and love all the days of your life.

AMOUR, like wine, gets better with age,


 So, lively brisk old fellow, don’t let age get you down.  White hairs or not, you can still be a lover.

          Johann Wolfgang von GOETHE  (1749-1842)


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