As an active participant of dating apps, I meet many mature-age gay men who live alone. And I’m beginning to notice a pattern.

Take Jim*, whose long-term male partner has died and who now lives alone with an elderly dog for companionship. The house is full of very dusty travel memorabilia. He enjoys too much wine, and he’s too proud to ask for social service assistance. Radio plays in the background. He has no contact with any gay outlets.

And Andrew*, who has been an itinerant worker, now living in public housing, has no money. It’s a very untidy apartment, he has a cat, gay memorabilia adorn the walls, big-screen television playing, and personal pride in spotlessly clean hygiene. He attends a gay bar occasionally.

What do these and similar men have in common – they’re all mature-age gay men living alone either by choice or circumstance.

Each has led a life vastly different from the others. Each man has developed as a gay person to whatever comfort level that allowed. Each has now withdrawn from active participation in the wider gay community, and each now lives a self-contained existence.

Radio, television, and pets are their constant companions to avoid loneliness. They are still sexually active via gay websites, their priorities being like-minded friendships for physical intimacy, especially hugging and touch. And they want to feel they are still desirable, still worthy of respect as a proud gay man, to feel part of the wider gay community.

When you answer their profile, it’s not just about sex, but rather, you’re a beacon of friendship and curiosity, a rare visit from the outside world.

Chatting over a drink, I’m constantly surprised at how close the degrees of separation are. Many of us know the same people, have attended the same events, had sex with the same men, and have the inevitable curiosity about whatever happened to them.

And to laugh over mutual misadventures – these are treasured moments for all gay men. As good mental health matters to us all, you could inadvertently become the most desirable pick-me-up tonic he needs.

When you take your sexual energy to see the host, it might just be that your gay life experiences could prove even a more pertinent subject. Don’t judge your host by the state of his abode. Instead, give something of yourself and start a conversation. It may be much more entertaining and fulfilling than you ever imagined.

*names have been changed.

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