Above: Phil Cohen and Carole Goldberg have become inseparable friends since they met at Somerby Senior Living in Sandy Springs; all photos by Isadora Pennington
Phil winked. Carole’s eyes twinkled. He didn’t notice the crinkles around her eyes, she didn’t notice his bifocals. They only had eyes for each other. Even though Phil and Carole aren’t spring chicks, they are in puppy love.
“I stood there waiting for the elevator to come down. When it opened up, Carole walked out. It was the beginning of our relationship,” Phil said.
Phil Cohen declared he was drawn to Carole Goldberg at first sight, right there in the lobby of Somerby Senior Living in Sandy Springs. He’s not telling a sappy story—Carole agreed there was something inexplicable about the first time the pair locked eyes.
“It just came. I can’t tell you, it was serendipitous,” Carole confirmed. “It was effortless for the both of us and we became good friends.”
Finding companionship as a senior may seem hard, but many couples find dating more freeing in their later years. Just as daily responsibilities become less pressing, dating rules become less important. For some, retirement brings romance—you just have to open yourself up to take part.
Last spring, Carole had no intention of finding another companion. However, she said Phil backs up her values and reminds her of her priorities. The couple’s commitment to companionship is only exceeded by their compassion for one another.
“When its comfort, you know it,” Carole said. “We are both experienced enough to know what comfort feels like.”
The octogenarian love birds are realistic and call their time together precious. “It isn’t like you are going to look forward to a long life together. This is it,” Carole said. “For us, it’s important to stay in the moment and not try to predict the future. I feel very blessed to have a companion in my life.”
If Phil and Carole’s relationship was founded in comfortable companionship, couple Joel and Charlotte’s relationship developed from a coincidence.
Joel Horowitz, also a resident at Somerby Senior Living, met Charlotte at the community’s senior speed dating event last fall. Neither baby boomer intended to find romance, only attending to take a chance and meet new people.
At the event, 20 participants rotated between 10 tables for four minutes of quick introductions. Joel made an impression on Charlotte in mere minutes.
“He talks just like my cousin from New York, who I think the world of,” Charlotte said. “He’s a good listener and he’s not quick to judge.”
The odds of meeting Joel any other way would have been slim. “You don’t know when you are going to meet someone who is compatible, so you’ve got to do it when it happens.”
As they talked, Joel and Charlotte found more coincidental similarities. Joel’s calling to work with children in special education and individuals with autism echoed Charlotte’s career in counseling those on the spectrum.
Joel and Charlotte are not just companions, but confidants. When Joel told Charlotte about the journey he had made many years ago to track down his birth family, she understood it more than the average person. For the past 10 years, Charlotte has co-facilitated a support group for mothers, a majority of whom had adopted children.
“I am very familiar with adoption issues and I understood his being curious and wondering why his mom would give him up,” Charlotte said.
After finding his birth mother, Joel gained a second mother for nearly a decade before she passed away. “When you’re adopted, you always wonder where you came from. It meant a lot to me and [Charlotte] has been empathetic and understanding. She even gets excited every time I tell her something,” Joel said.
Both Joel and Charlotte value family and do not lack in close family relationships. Two of Joel’s children live in Atlanta, and both of Charlotte’s sons live within minutes of her. The couple enhance each other’s lives by adding extra companionship, and their families enthusiastically approve.
“My daughter thinks it’s a hoot, she thinks it’s really neat,” Joel said. “At a certain point you start to wonder, ‘Is there going to be somebody else?’ You hope and sometimes you get lucky—sometimes you get to go to speed dating!”
Joel feels freedom in dating as a senior. He said former courting protocol, such as waiting a certain amount of time before calling and setting up a date, doesn’t seem as relevant in his stage of life.
“Why waste time? If there’s an opportunity, take advantage of it,” he said.
Joel sends Charlotte a text message each morning to brighten her day with a sweet note like, “Good Morning, Sunshine!” complete with a flower emoji.
“I’m emotional and I believe in expressing lighthearted affection,” he explained. “If you feel that way about someone, let them know. It’s no secret.”
Just as Joel and Charlotte don’t feel the need to follow dating rules, they don’t feel the need to clarify their relationship. To them, a label such as “significant other” would diminish other important relationships in their lives, and the status “boyfriend and girlfriend” would make them feel like teenagers.
This month, they choose to call each other “Valentine.”