Three years ago, Vivian Stoner asked John Fracasse if he would like to accompany her to a Valentine’s Day dance, and he accepted. The two are residents at Woodland Pond at New Paltz and did not expect to date in retirement. Now considered an “item” at the senior living community, John and Vivian have led the way in encouraging other seniors to date–people who may have originally felt that they were too old. In recognition of National Romance Awareness Month, Vivian and John want to share their story, perspective and advice in the hope of letting other seniors know that it’s never too late, and you’re never too old to start dating or to begin a relationship. Vivian says it makes her feel like a kid again and believes it to be very healthy. She loves the butterflies she still feels around John.
“I never thought I’d have these feelings again,” said Vivian. “When he holds my hand, I feel sparks fly. We went to that Valentine’s Day dance on a whim, and I would have never guessed fate would bring us to where we are today. At the celebration, we discovered that we both love to dance, so we started the party on the dance floor, and soon other couples were joining us. Beyond dancing, we learned that we had many of the same interests, and our relationship grew from there. It’s funny, because neither one of us was looking for anything, but over time our friendship bloomed, and now we are “going together.’”
“I ran into Vivian and got to know her when she was walking with her grandchild,” said John. “A few weeks later, she asked me to the dance, and then I followed up with her to see if she would like to join me for lunch in Newburg by the waterfront. I took her to my favorite restaurant because I wanted to share something special with her. It’s nice being able to share experiences with someone. We are both so comfortable with each other; it feels like we’ve known each other our whole lives. We work as a team, too, which is also important. We like to stay active and are very involved in the community. She puts on several dances every year and DJs for them. I help her by advertising and arranging refreshments supplied. I like to put on a Super Bowl party, and she helps me with that as well.”
Vivian and John are involved in each other’s family events as well. John says that Vivian is a most caring person who does a lot for everybody and always puts others first. Both agreed that they never thought they would date after their spouses passed. They were both caregivers and endured a lot of pain during that chapter of their lives. It has been said that people find love when they are not looking for it, and both John and Vivian agree with that. They enjoy each other’s companionship and are happy to have someone to laugh with, travel with, create new memories with and be silly with as well.
“I feel like I’ve become alive, and I’m having the most wonderful time in my life right now,” said Vivian. “He’s my best friend. I love when he holds my hand and gives me hugs. We never let the stigma of being too old stop us from dating. What’s funny about this whole situation is that he lives right across the hall from me, so when we started dating we joked about the 252 steps it would take to get to each other’s apartments. After we started dating, we noticed other residents giving the dating scene a go and to their delight, finding someone they cherish spending time with each and every day. The important thing to remember while dating is to be yourself and don’t hold back. If you want to spend time with someone, hug them or hold their hand, just go for it. Don’t be afraid or worry about what others think. Do what you want to do, and don’t look back. If you want to go to dinner with someone, just ask. If you want to see a movie with someone, just ask.”
Vivian and John enjoy doing a lot of the same activities. The two love to travel and have been to Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, Wyoming, Tennessee, South Dakota and the Jersey shore. They plan to visit Italy later this year. The two also enjoy camping in cabins, spending time with each other’s families, country music and more. John is a firm believer in compromising. He says that sometimes you will want to do different things but that it is important to compromise. Sometimes he will do something he doesn’t want to do because he knows it means a lot to Vivian, and likewise with her.
“Our children joke that we are never around because we stay so busy, but they are happy we have found this camaraderie with each other,” said John. “Vivian has brightened every day since I met her. I call her in the mornings once I see that her shade is up, as that’s how I know she’s awake. When her phone rings, I’m sure she knows it’s me.”
“I just think John is so cute, and I love hearing from him first thing in the morning,” said Vivian. “Dating is more fun when you get older. You can get away with more silly things. Moving to Woodland Pond was the best move of my life. Ever since I moved in I’ve been having fun every day, and meeting John was the icing on the cake. When I moved here, my whole life changed. Fate is an extraordinary thing. One day you’re doing your same routine, and then bam! You acquire a feeling you didn’t think you’d have again. At one point I thought I would never date anyone, and then my attitude changed after I met John. If you keep living and meeting new people, life just may surprise you.”
“Vivian and John are the perfect example of how you can find happiness at any point in your life,” said Michelle Gramoglia, executive director of Woodland Pond at New Paltz. “They are an inspiration to us all because they don’t hold back and they don’t let what others think get in the way of their happiness. I’m tickled that they hit it off at one of the community’s Valentine’s Day dances. That means a lot to the staff who plan these events in the hope that residents will get to know each other more, build lasting friendships and even relationships down the road.”