The song is called “Lookin’ For Love” and in 1980 the version by Johnny Lee hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country singles chart — thanks, no doubt, to being featured in the movie “Urban Cowboy.”
Most of us, though, know it by an extended title that comes from the first line of the chorus — “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.”
We won’t spend time today on what those places might be — we suspect you might already know. Instead, let’s take a more positive approach: What are the best places to look for love?
Well, for some of you — and you’ll soon know who — the answer is . . . Virginia. Wait — really?
Possibly. The website Senior List does rank Virginia as the 5th best place in the country for singles 50 and older.
Now, before all you singles 50 and older sign up for Tinder, let’s have a frank talk about safe statistics. What? You thought we were going to say something else? Get your mind out of the gutter.
Anyway, back to this Senior List rating that makes Virginia sound like the capital of Swingin’ Seniors. The Senior List rating — like all these other websites that rate things and rank things — is rather subjective. Much like beauty, ratings like that are in the eye of the beholder. Or, more accurately, they depend entirely on what you’re rating and ranking.
According the boring but reliable old U.S. Census Bureau, Virginia actually has one of the lowest rates of senior singles in the country — 13th lowest, which is another way of saying that 37 states have a higher percentage of single seniors.
So why does Senior List rank Virginia so high? It mostly comes down to this: Senior List says that 63% of Virginia’s singles in that age group have an annual income of $50,000 or more. That’s what really spikes Virginia’s desirability rating. By contrast, in Mississippi, only 43% of senior singles make $50,000 or more. We’re not saying all the single seniors in Virginia are rich but enough are to goose the ratings in our favor. Only Maryland, Hawaii, Connecticut, and Alaska score higher on Senior List’s rankings. We don’t know about you, but if we were looking for a date in that age range, we’d sure rather do it in Hawaii than Alaska. We digress, though. The point is, Senior List says Virginia is kind of a dating hotspot for seniors, especially ones with money. Who knew?
You might think Florida would have been the best place. Senior List, though, isn’t impressed by the Sunshine State. Why not? Lots of old people — err, people 50 and older, sorry — but too many without much money. Only 51% make $50,000 or more a year. Senior List is all about the Benjamins, baby. People of that generation will completely understand if we quote a song that Smokey Robinson helped write — and which the J. Geils Band later turned into an all-out rocker: “First I Look At the Purse.”
As with many categories, Northern Virginia skews our ratings on affluence — Loudoun County is now the most affluent county in the country, with other counties there not far behind. Of course, to be fair, Northern Virginians might say that Southwest and Southside Virginia pull down the state’s ratings, and they wouldn’t be wrong.
Now it’s time to be serious for a moment. The reason this issue even comes up is a confluence of social trends and demography.
The social trend: The divorce rate for older couples is growing. The Pew Research Center says that since the 1990s, the divorce rate for couples 50 and older has doubled. For those 65 and older, it’s tripled. It’s not millennials who are killing marriage, it’s baby boomers.
Meanwhile, Virginia, like all but one other state, is seeing its population age as baby boomers get older. (The only state defying the trend by getting younger? North Dakota, which has seen an influx of young adults, drawn by the state’s oil-and-gas boom). That means — if trends continue — we’re going to see a lot more divorcing seniors.
Sorry to be such a bummer, but this is, after all, the editorial page. Some of you think gloom and doom is our specialty. Or would you prefer we write today about politics? Just checking. But back to the matter at hand: Will those trends continue? Some do. Some don’t. The 2000 census found that the city with the highest divorce rate in the country was . . . Roanoke. A New York Times story in 2004 attributed the high divorce rate in Roanoke to the “economic blows” of the ’90s which saw the region’s economy transformed — although there were lots of places in the country that went through the same thing. By the 2010 census, Roanoke wasn’t anywhere near the top, although the nation’s highest divorce rates were in the rural South and industrial Midwest, two regions that continue to suffer those “economic blows” of a changing economy.
Policy-wise there are lots of implications to all this — from making sure rural areas aren’t left behind in the economy to how we pay for health care. But those are depressing topics, too, and this is Valentine’s Day, so let’s figure out a way to get things back to something at least mildly uplifting.
Let’s say you’re single and older than 50 and you’re looking to meet other singles in the same age range. Where are the best places to look? In theory, this is one place where rural areas have a demographic advantage over the urban crescent — we have a higher percentage of seniors. Highland County is the oldest place in the state; the median there is now estimated at 60.5. By contrast, the state median is 38. The youngest is Lexington, at 21.6, but that’s obviously skewed by college students. The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia says that “in Lancaster, Northumberland, Middlesex, Highland, and James City it is projected that more than 30% of their residents will be 65 years or older by the end of this decade.”
Here’s where statistics can lead you astray, though. Those are percentages. You’ll find a lot more seniors in even the youngest communities, simply by virtue of population. So what communities do have the most number of singles 50 and older? By sheer numbers: Fairfax County, with 111,255, followed by Virginia Beach with 50,866. By percentage: Emporia at 61% and Petersburg at 60%. The worst: New Kent County at 25%. Roanoke is at 54%. You won’t find a higher percentage this side of Richmond — so, statistically speaking, the odds are in your favor. .
Happy Valentine’s Day, for those both young — and young at heart.