A 28-YEAR-OLD woman who is dating a man 48 years her senior admits strangers often mistake her for his carer – despite being happily in love.

Kelsey Hopeful, from La Jolla, San Diego, met 76-year-old Guy BonGiovanni, from Anchorage, Alaska, in a yoga class – which he started attending after losing his wife of 42 years.

The pair struck up a conversation after class one day, with Kelsey, a special education teacher, and Guy, a photographer, quickly becoming firm friends.

They admit while there was an instant attraction between them, it wasn't not love at first sight and that their romance began two years later.

"I decided to try something new and chose a yoga class at my local gym," said Kelsey. "I started to examine my surroundings and the people in the class.

"Eventually, my eyes made contact with a man I thought was actor and comedian George Carlin. He picked up his mat and moved it right next to me. I thought, 'Uh oh.

"Once the class was over, Guy asked if I would like to be his friend. I was taken aback because it was a simple question, one that I have seen children ask of other children.

"We talked alone in that gym for two hours and when he said his goodbyes, he just walked away. There were no phone numbers asked for, nor last names, no guarantees that we would ever see each other again. That is how the story of us began.

"At first, the attraction for me was the sound of his voice and his ability to tell a story. I could listen to him for hours."

The couple are now in a live-in relationship, but admit they've faced criticism from family members because of their 48 year age gap.  

According to Kelsey, the hardest person to tell was her 76-year-old grandma, who is the same age as Guy.

Kelsey's grandma had herself married a much older man and has struggled to cope with the loss of the love of her life in the 26 years since his death.

Being so much younger than Guy, Kelsey admits the idea of him passing away decades before her gets her sad too.

For as long as they have each other, the happy couple love going for hikes and exploring new cities and states, and they even watch plays together.

However, for Kelsey, these wonderful moments have been tinged with sadness because she knows that she's unlikely to grow old with the love of her life.

"In the earliest steps of our relationship, I would cry alone about our 48-year age gap.

"We had beautiful times together watching plays, going for hikes, or finding pastry shops, but tears would come.

"[One day] I began to cry in front of him because I was experiencing joy on another level and then suddenly I remembered that he is 48 years older than me and he has fewer summers ahead of him than I do.

"I now tell him when I am scared of losing him, because one day there is going to be a time in my life that he won't be with me anymore and I want him to know now that I was always open and real with him and that he feels my appreciation and love. I pray for that each day. 

"Guy, being old and wise, tells me that there is no point in crying about death until it happens and that we need to be here now and love each other as much as we can.

"When the friendship blossomed into us becoming lovers, it was important to me that we kept the opinions of others away from my ears, especially in the beginning."

Kelsey kept her relationship with Guy a secret for a whole yet in fear that her friends and family would respond negatively.

However, she's gradually learned not to worry about what others think and in the spring of 2020, decided to tell her family, one at a time, about their relationship. 

When out together, Kelsey and Guy admit that strangers might think that she is his caregiver but when they have introduced themselves as a couple, they fortunately have received no snarky remarks.

This is something that Kelsey believes is because strangers realize how happy they are together regardless of their age gap.

"When it was time for me to share with my family about my relationship with Guy, it was because of the pandemic.

"The COVID-19 virus was mostly infecting the elderly and I was worried, so I chose to discuss our relationship one at a time with my family.

"The most complicated talk for me was with my maternal grandmother because she fell in love with a man 18 years older and she has been his widow for 26 years.

"She would confide with me in my teens that at times, she wished she could have found a companion to spend more time with her.

"I think I felt I would be just like her, with only one love in my life.

"When we are in public, there is a good chance that people from a distance may think I am Guy's caregiver.

"Even when we explain we are a couple, we have received no snarky comments or facial expressions of horror.

"We're better together and I think people feel that when they meet us and see how happy we are."

For Kelsey, one of the best things about being in an age gap relationship is learning to value the time the couple spend together.

The couple are now inseparable and are even considering getting married.

"Another benefit to our age gap is that we think about what's my time worth on earth today," Kelsey said.

"Guy has an ocean's worth of life experiences, but he shares his wisdom with spontaneity and care.

"He is the most important person in my life and the best example of how to age healthy and be happy at any stage in one's life.

"I am no longer afraid to grow into an old woman anymore."

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