People over 60 who find themselves single after many years of coupledom will find much has changed since they were last on the dating scene. Fortunately, there are plenty of people in the same boat. In the last decade, divorce in this age group has risen dramatically, and according to an April 2021 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, 43% of 55-64-year-olds are divorced.
For people who stopped dating before online services were so popular, navigating the expectations of this new world can seem overwhelming. But though there have been many changes, the essentials remain the same. Here dating expert, coach, and founder of the dating service “It’s Just Lunch,” Andrea McGinty, shares her top tips for people back in the market.
Getting Started With Online Dating To return to the dating game, you have to head toward the playing field. Today, that probably means online dating.
Not sure where to start? A Google search for online dating will turn up pages of possible services. Also, Forbes Health analyzed senior dating sites based on price, how they match you, privacy, and willingness to answer questions.
Whichever site you choose, be ready to try a few before you find one you like.
Online Dating Rules of Thumb Once you’ve chosen a site or two, getting started is as easy (or difficult) as creating a profile and putting yourself out there. Follow these rules of thumb to put your best foot forward.
Profile Magic Your online profile is where you’ll make your first impression, so putting effort into making it a reflection of yourself will pay off. In addition to writing about yourself, McGinty says it’s good to describe who you’re looking for. She also recommends choosing photos that illustrate who you are and what you enjoy doing. She says active photos are as important as fun and engaging profiles (bathroom-mirror selfies are a big no!).
Put Yourself Out There For people just starting to date, McGinty cautions against falling for the first person you meet and says it’s crucial to devote time to the process. She recommends having multiple experiences as quickly as possible (optimally, going on five first dates in the first two weeks) to gain a certain comfort level while fine-tuning your likes and dislikes.
“There is nothing to be scared about,” she says. “This approach builds confidence and helps regain dating conversation skills.”
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Text Little, Talk More Texts and phone calls are only to make an initial connection—they are not a date. “Discovering if you have the three C’s—chemistry, communication, and common values—happen in person and will make or break a relationship,” says McGinty.
Conversations with someone new aren’t always easy. Asking open-ended questions can help to get to know something about your date rather than questions with yes or no answers. And remember, conversation is a two-way street. Really listen to the answers and then answer their questions in ways that help them get to know you. It may seem obvious but stick to non-controversial topics on that first date, especially, and don’t talk about bad dates (or marriages), religion, or politics. Date Safely McGinty preaches “safety first” with her clients. Like engaging in any other online activity, it’s important when setting up dates with people you meet online to consider the possibility that they aren’t who they say they are. Take precautions to protect yourself, especially with first dates. “I had a woman who was going to go hiking alone with her date on their first date! I told her, ‘No, you are not,’” says McGinty. She stresses that everyone setting up a first date should meet in a public place, take public transportation, if necessary (or drive yourself, call a ride service or taxi), let someone you trust know your plans, and stay sober. Online Dating Isn’t the Only Way Even though meeting people online is popular and accessible, it’s not for everyone. Many people still partner the old-fashioned way, meeting through friends, networks, or shared interests. Gordon Hesse, 75, of Arden, Delaware, who was married for 23 years, tried online dating but ultimately quit because he found the volume of messages confusing and, despite the detailed questionnaire, some were from inappropriate, faraway locations. He later found success meeting someone by way of his chiropractor. “She introduced me to a woman who was looking for someone like me,” he remembers. They bonded quickly, and that bond turned into a rewarding 5-year relationship. Freda Savana, 67, a freelance writer from Pennsylvania, has been divorced for 18 years after a 23-year marriage. She also tried online dating, sampling the free sites Plenty of Fish, OK Cupid, and Facebook Dating before paying to join Match. “I found most of them to be much the same, even with the same men on the sites,” she says. “I had some very nice dates, but nothing flourished.” She has met men at work events and parties and entered a new relationship after being introduced by a mutual friend. If online dating isn’t working for you, Hesse suggests volunteering or engaging in meaningful activities. “Seniors can find each other through exercise programs or classes such as at the Academy of Lifelong Learning in Delaware. You may find a kindred spirit where there is no pretext of being in ‘search mode,’” he adds.