by Barbara Bova
Scripps Howard News Service
March 12, 2005
"'The Romance of Helen Trent' followed the titular heroine in her valiant quest to prove 'that because a woman is 35, or older, romance in life need not be over... that the romance of youth can be extended into middle life and even beyond...' "
I only wish my mother were alive today. If she were, she would see that her favorite 15-minute soap opera is now reality, especially "into middle life and even beyond ..."
Every school day I would run home for lunch and listen, with my mom, to an episode of "The Romance of Helen Trent" on the kitchen radio. I knew that when that episode of Helen's troubles was over, at the point where everything seemed hopeless for her romance, I had to run back to school. In those distant years when soap operas were the favorite fantasies of housewives, 1933 to 1960, Helen was the queen of them all.
It all seems so strange today when I think back to my mother's time. Age 35 was the end of real romance for most women, but not for their fantasies. Today the median age is 40-plus. Women and men in their 70s and older are finding romance alive and well in their lives. Some, whose marriages have lasted through the years, have learned to appreciate and love each other even more than they had. Those whose spouses have died are finding out that romance can and does continue to bloom for them. Sex is no longer just for the young but for the young at heart.
We're living longer and healthier lives than our parents did. More of us will see our 90s. The business of manufacturing birthday cards is significant because it says a lot about present-day demographics. We can buy birthday cards for individuals 100 or older. Middle age is not where it once was.
I'm a grandmother of a 12-year-old boy and started playing tennis again after more than 20 years' hiatus. The more I play the more energy stays with me after the game. Once, engaging in sports was over for most people by the time they reached their 30s. People married young, had children and turned away from youthful activities.
Now science is doing studies to measure older people's brains and the impact sports have on their brain cells. Their encouraging findings push me to walk miles every day.
Making love is an exercise that can be enjoyed by people at 70 and way beyond. Now, even older folks living in retirement communities are romancing away and there's no end to it, as long as they stay healthy and able. It's no longer just a lovely thought for a woman or man to dream about romance.
What makes us fall in love, no matter our age, is finding someone who likes the same things we do, enjoys our company and sees us through the complimentary eyes of love.
Today's heroine of "The Romance of Helen Trent" would be a 75-year-old widow with grandchildren. She would be in love with a widowed guy around her age. The series would end with her getting her man. They would be friends and lovers, sharing their lives together as they walk off into the sunset.