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Finding love

Jo Willacy

Jo Willacy



Meeting someone new in later life, for companionship and love, can seem impossible, but these couples show that it can happen – and in very different ways…

‘I wanted companionship but now it’s so much more’, Jean Ellis, 82, lives with her partner Peter Wilgeroth, 86, in North Bay Court, a McCarthy & Stone development in Scarborough, Yorkshire, ‘I was married to my husband, Fred, for 51 years. He had Alzheimer’s for the last five years of his life and died in 2006. I’d joined Scarborough’s Alzheimer’s Society for support, attending meetings every Friday, and that’s where I met Peter. His wife, Violet, who died in 2005, also had Alzheimer’s. They’d been married for 52 years.

‘After Fred died, Peter was the first person who made me laugh. He walked into a meeting, said something and I just roared with laughter. Neither of us can remember now what he said – we’re too old!

‘When Peter first asked me if I’d like to go out for a meal, I was so shocked I replied, “I don’t think so!” But, back at home, I thought, “You silly old fool, what have you got to lose? He’s lovely.” The following week, I told him I’d changed my mind – luckily, he hadn’t changed his!

‘We went to a lovely fish and chip restaurant in Scarborough and we got on famously. We talked for hours, finding out we had a few of the same interests and, of course, we talked about Fred and Violet.

‘When Peter and I first met, I didn’t think I wanted to find love again, but I did want companionship. We’ve been together eight years now, moving in together two years ago, and I feel so blessed that our relationship has progressed to love. Our families are very happy that we’ve found each other – it stops them worrying about us being on our own.

‘We’re definitely going to be together for life, but we have no plans to get married. We don’t need to – our partnership is enough. We respect each other and we don’t take each other for granted, but it’s not all plain sailing. We do have our differences of opinion – we just talk about everything and always end up laughing. Being able to laugh together is important, and having the odd disagreement makes us stronger.

‘Peter is fun to be with. He’s caring and is always there for me. He’s a real gentleman. Peter says he loves my attitude to life – to laugh and be happy. One of our hobbies is ballroom dancing. When we go for our three-month winter holiday in Benidorm, we dance a lot; it keeps us young. People there call us Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire… but I do like to remind them that they’re dead!’

I'm proud that we met online

Jean Pudney, 66, met her partner, John Hanks, 66, via an online dating site. They have been a couple for four years‘. It was a couple of years after my divorce before I could consider looking to meet anyone. My daughters, Julie and Kathryn, kept encouraging me to try online dating. I was sceptical and a bit scared. Eventually, though, my girls wrote my profile for me and persuaded me to sign up with eHarmony ( I felt that a site where you had to pay for membership was safer.

‘I’d been on the site for just under a year when John emailed me. I’d had emails from other men, but none had led to anything. John’s emails were always really friendly, and we chatted about everything and anything. It turned out his daughters, Liz and Bev, were the ones who’d persuaded him to join, too. He claims he wasn’t looking for a woman at all!

‘John and I emailed each other for a year before we met. I wasn’t ready to rush into anything. Eventually, he asked me out on a date in York. I’d planned a lovely outfit to wear but on the day it snowed and the pavements were so icy I had to wear flat boots. I was upset as I like to dress glamorously. I texted John and said, “Don’t you dare look at my feet – I’ve got my flatties on!” Now, it’s an in joke that he never looks at my feet when I wear flat shoes!

We met for a coffee and we got on brilliantly – even though he wasn’t my type! There was just something about him that I really warmed to.

‘We dated for 10 months before we “officially” became a couple. We’d had a fabulous day out in Leeds and, as evening approached, I said, “I don’t want to go home alone, do you?” He felt the same, so I invited him back to mine. That was a Friday night – he didn’t go home until Monday morning!

‘We don’t live together; we live between each other’s houses. We’ve never discussed marriage, we’re both just so happy as we are. I think we’ve got the best of both worlds because we still have our independence. He loves his sports – golf, snooker, cricket – which is why he goes home for a few days every week! We have lots in common, too – we love ballroom dancing, holidays and trips in our motorhome.

‘I know there’s a stigma attached to online dating, especially for older people, but I’m really proud that we met online. I’ve found my soulmate.’

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