Saturday, February 17, 2024

Home Town: Starting Over

A local author offers a road map for widows and late-life divorced men.

Hal Spielman knew he was in trouble when he couldn’t find the checkbook. That was just one of the everyday obstacles he was facing in the wake of his wife’s death. “I started to realize there was an enormous gap in my operational base,” he says, thinking of that time six years ago when he was suddenly charged with doing the things that his wife used to do for him.

Now 86, Spielman has managed to navigate those uncharted waters and he’s been generous enough to help others do the same through Suddenly Solo: A Lifestyle Road Map For the Mature, Widowed or Divorced Man, a book he co-authored with Marc Silbert.

“I thought there are people out there who are coping with this issue, so I turned to what I did for a living [he cofounded McCollum Spielman Worldwide, a marketing and communication research company], and we interviewed over 1000 men and over 600 women who were widowed or divorced, mostly in their 60s and 70s, to find out how they were coping and what were the issues,” he says. “Out of that came the book.”

Rather than a nurturing guide to the twilight years, Speilman’s book offers far more practical advice based on real numbers, not revelation. His impressive market research and sociology background gave him the chops to find out what was going on in a population of men who found themselves alone—after a lifetime as half of a couple.

Retired since 2008 and a part-time Lake Worth resident, Spielman says the book took on a life of its own. He’s been featured on “The Today Show” and talks of a possible radio show.

Here are a few things he’s discovered about how to get living again.

• Being alone [is] different for men and for women. We immediately saw men were raising issues about where they lived, where they ate, about their health and their finances. Women were raising issues about relationships, dating, sexual activity; they were very open about talking about that.

• We aimed the book at men, but more women buy the book.

• We separate being alone from being lonely; there is a very marked difference. Loneliness is an issue. About 80 percent of men and women say that the main reason they want to be a couple again is to have shared experiences.

• One of the things we have heard is that mature men only want to date young women—this is absolutely wrong. The data says they prefer overwhelmingly to date women in their own age range. They have things to share in their past.

• The most important thing is to get prepared to get out there, look for things you are interested in doing that will put you into social situations where you can meet other people. You are going to meet other people who can help make your life more joyful.

• Twenty-nine percent of people we talked to who were in a relationship were with someone they had known in the past. What that said to us was: “Go to your class reunion.” The second largest category of people in a relationship—22 percent—met their partner online.

• In Florida, happy hour is a big thing.

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