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IU Health & Wellness

Research and insights from Indiana University

Jan. 28, 2010

IU Health and Wellness for January discusses the following topics:

Sports-related Valentine's Day gifts for Her
Enjoying Valentine's Day without a valentine
The dating game: Dating in the later years


Antonio Williams

Print-Quality Photo

Tickets to the game -- how, er, romantic? Self-serving -- of course -- but sports-related Valentine's Day gifts for Her could also bring some of the drama, emotion and sizzle found on the court or playing field into the burgeoning romantic relationship. More and more women are becoming sports fans, says Antonio Williams, a sports marketing expert at Indiana University, making sporting events tickets, apparel and other sports-related gifts a nice way to make sports part of a relationship and to tap into the emotional and social aspects of sport. If a girlfriend went to football games with her father when she was younger, for example, taking her to a game could stir feelings of family and fondness. "If you take her to a big game and your team wins, it will tap the nostalgia aspect because she'll remember that game for the rest of her life -- even if she's not a sports fan," said Williams, who proposed to his wife (and long-time Colts fan) during an Indianapolis Colts game. "Sports give you the drama, reality entertainment. It provides the unexpected. And let's not forget the 'sizzle,' the half-time entertainment, games, cheerleaders, restaurants, gift shops." Williams said women make up almost half of fans for the four major, professional sports -- The National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. With actresses and movie stars dating and marrying professional athletes, sports have become much more a part of pop culture. Successful female athletes, such as tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, also are becoming more mainstream, appearing in reality TV shows and on the covers of magazines such as Vanity Fair not just Sports Illustrated. "Sports has a pop and sexy feel to it," said Williams. "Pop" and "sexy," perhaps, but Williams said any old ball cap or t-shirt will not do on Valentine's Day -- a homerun will take some legwork. He offers the following tips:

  • If you want to take her to a sporting event, scout it out beforehand to make sure the facility is clean, the sound system is clear and that overall service is good. Clean restrooms also are important, Williams said.
  • Check with the venue regarding promotions -- many men, like Williams, propose to their girlfriends at major sporting events, and the venues can enhance this with scoreboard messages and other highlights. Williams said some sporting teams have promotions where their mascots deliver gifts.
  • Find out what teams she favors. Keep an eye out for sports apparel that her family members wear -- it might signal a team, verses a sport, that has her allegiance. Find out what sports she has played or where she attended college.
  • Take her to a game at her alma mater. She might not have visited her college in years. Such a visit could be sentimental and entertaining.
  • Top off a picnic in the park -- chocolates and roses included -- with a few tosses of the football. This combines romance and the emotional feel of sport.
  • Many professional sporting events are family-oriented thus attract couples and kids. Taking your date to such a sporting event might give her a glimpse at what a serious relationship or married life would look like.
  • If your girlfriend is lukewarm to sports, try to awaken her inner sports fan by taking her to a game that has "sizzle on the steak," entertaining half-time shows, cheerleaders, games and other gimmicks. "It's totally different, watching a game live verses being at home with all the distractions," Williams said.
  • Avoid unisex, over-sized clothes. She'll want to wear the apparel, not sleep in it, Williams said.

Williams said research finds that avid sports fans who are men tend to go to significantly more sporting events if their wives also are avid sports fans. Women also wield a lot of control over family purse strings, so if their kids want a specific athlete's jersey for Christmas, they -- and sports marketers -- better hope mom likes that athlete. Williams said the major professional sports have been focusing more attention on their female fan base. "They've figured out that women have a lot of buying power."

Williams can be reached at 812-855-3061 and The sports marketing program in the Department of Kinesiology is in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. Top

woman image

Photo by Emiliano Spada

Happy Valentine's Day to me. It is unfortunate that Valentine's Day has gotten blown out of proportion and has come to "symbolize the value of a person depending on what someone gives you on Valentine's Day," says Kathleen Gilbert, a professor in Indiana University's Department of Applied Health Science. Valentine's Day can be just as enjoyable if you don't receive a gift, or if you don't have a significant other, and Gilbert offers the following tips as proof:

  • Get a sense of proportion. "Valentine's Day is like any other day," says Gilbert, and if you view it that way, then it won't bother you that you don't have a special someone to spend it with.
  • Change the way you think of what love means. It seems that a lot of people have a "distorted idea of romantic love." Love is not prince charming riding on horseback coming to sweep you off your feet. That is "not a realistic representation of what love is all about," says Gilbert. If you redefine your definition of love, then there won't be so much pressure to find such an unrealistic version. If you lack romantic love, then think of friends and family and the love that they give you.
  • Focus on yourself. Take the opportunity to identify with yourself and the things that you love and that make you happy.

Gilbert also notes that Valentine's Day can be rather difficult after you have experienced the loss of a loved one -- "them not being there exaggerates that grieving experience." Gilbert offers these tips to overcome that sadness:

  • If you're a member of a faith community, join one of their groups. It keeps you moving and preoccupied. It also exposes you to, as Gilbert calls them, a "pool of eligibles."
  • Do something meaningful, such as help a friend or join a volunteer activity. "It allows you to get outside of yourself," says Gilbert, and makes you feel like you are connected to other people.

Gilbert can be reached at 812-855-5209 or Top

Older Couple image

Dating in the aging population. There is no existing expiration date for having romantic relationships. "Relationships do not fade in importance as we age," says Phillip Stafford, director of the Center on Aging and Community at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University. In fact, "relationships can loom more important if someone experiences the loss of a partner," Stafford adds," which can be an unfortunate consequence of long life."

Stafford lists a few places where older adults are known to seek and find newfound relationships:

  • Church and church events. Social activities in local religious settings are non-forced opportunities to meet people without preconditions or commitments.
  • Singles groups. In many towns and cities one finds "dating over 50" and singles groups advertised in the local news, including the traditional "wanted, SWF," Classified ads.
  • Social media Web sites. is successful and rapidly growing online community for Baby Boomers interested in new relationships of all kinds, whether intellectual or romantic.

Just as with young people, personal finances play a role in dating. Seniors on limited budgets may not have the discretionary money to support an active social life. Seniors with money may, legitimately, be concerned that this new person interested in them is a "gold digger," a concern sometimes shared by their adult children, according to Stafford. For widowed men, it's a "buyer's market," given disparities in longevity by gender. "In my experience," says Stafford, "I have known older widowers who have a lot of delicious home-cooked meals provided to them. "On the other hand," he adds, "I have heard a lot of older widows remark that they'd just like to find an old guy who is not so helpless around the house."

Stafford can be reached at or 812-855-2163. The Center on Aging and Community is one of seven centers at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, at Indiana University Bloomington. The Center on Aging provides self-determination and social integration of aging adults with disabilities through participatory research, planning and advocacy. For more information visit Top

For additional assistance with these items, contact Tracy James at 812-855-0084 or, or Ashley Davidson at