If you’re an older person thinking about getting back into the dating world, you’re not alone. PEW research shows that about a third of American adults are single (not married or in a committed relationship), with 36 percent of those 65 and older saying they are single, compared to 23 percent of those 30-49 years old.
While half of the singles say they’re not looking for a relationship right now, that leaves half who may be looking for either a committed relationship or at least to go on a few casual dates. Thinking about dating and actually going out, though, are two different things. No one would argue that it’s different out there than it used to be. Older adults may feel worried, confused, or anxious about going on dates again.
Still, if you’re looking for companionship, it’s best not to let fear hold you back. Recent research shows that maintaining strong social ties helps us live longer and healthier lives. In one review of 150 studies, scientists found that people with strong social ties had a 50 percent better chance of survival.
To help you get back out there into the dating world, we’ve shared 10 ways you can prepare to increase your odds of enjoying yourself and finding meaningful connections.
1. Make Sure You’re Ready to Date
This is an important step because if you're not emotionally ready to date, you may end up disappointed and even discouraged. You want this to be a positive experience, so take an afternoon to reflect on where you are in life.
If you’re coming out of a divorce or have recently lost a spouse or partner, you may need a little more time to grieve and recover before embarking on a potential new relationship. Feeling lonely, on its own, is not a good reason to date. Getting together with good friends or family members may be a better option when you’re dealing with a difficult emotional time.
You'll know you're ready to date when you feel reasonably happy and confident of your self-worth. You want to feel positive, open, and up for an adventure. If you're still struggling with leftover anger or hurt from a past relationship or loss, it can help to see a therapist.
2. Determine What Your Boundaries Are
Yes, the dating world has changed, but that doesn’t mean you have to do anything that you’re not comfortable doing. This is not about trying to be younger than you are. If your rule has always been that you don’t kiss on a first date, there’s no reason why you need to change that rule unless you want to.
Consider what boundaries you want to have when dating, and don’t worry about what other people think. If a person you’re dating doesn’t respect your values, they probably aren’t the right person for you anyway.
3. Find the Best Way to Meet Someone
One of the ways dating has drastically changed from a few decades ago is that we now have a lot more ways to meet new people.
You may be more comfortable using the in-person methods than the online ones, but depending on where you live and how many options are available to you, it may be that you would find more potential dates if you took your search to the Internet.
Either way, decide how you want to start your search, and feel free to go slowly. You can always try new avenues as you go.
4. Seek Out Ways to Meet People in Person
If you prefer meeting someone in person rather than interacting online first, there are many ways you can do that. Look for these options in your area:
- Classes: Maybe you can take a photography class, a crafting class, or a computer class to improve your skills. Your neighborhood athletic club may have fitness classes geared toward seniors, or dance classes. You may meet someone, but either way, you'll be improving your life and making connections.
- Senior Activities: Check with your town senior club or senior citizens center to see if they have singles activities you may want to attend. Check with Senior Meetups to find groups that are getting together for hiking, lunch, book clubs, or other activities.
- Travel: Many travel groups now offer unique adventures specifically geared toward seniors and/or singles. Some examples include Road Scholar, Adventures Abroad, Edlertreks, Kensington Tours, and more.
- Volunteer: Volunteering is a healthy thing to do no matter what your age, but it can also introduce you to new people. Check with your community center or local newspaper for volunteering opportunities, or look online at VolunteerMatch, AmeriCorps, Retired Brains, and StoriiTime.
5. Choose Online Dating Sites Carefully
Online dating offers another way to connect with other single seniors who may share your values and interests. It can be fun and rewarding, but at the same time, it’s best to proceed with caution.
First, choose the sites you use carefully. There are now over 1,500 dating apps and websites available. Some of those with the best reviews include:
- Eharmony: Best for those looking for a long-time commitment.
- Match.com: Uses a tested matchmaking process to help connect users.
- Silversingles: Tailored to older individuals who have been married before. Requires the completion of an extensive questionnaire when you sign up.
- OurTime: Built for those over 50 who are seeking friends in addition to romance.
There are many other sites you may use. Some are free, but most require some sort of payment. This may turn you off at first, but consider that those willing to provide a credit card and invest in their searches may be more serious about finding real connections than those who are simply passing through a free site.
Spend some time researching dating sites, but try not to get too overwhelmed by all the choices. Do look for online reviews to make sure the sites are reputable and safe before using them.
Once you've chosen the site you want to try, create a profile that genuinely reflects your interests, personality, and worldview. (Ask friends and family for help if you'd like.) Rather than focus too much on physical features, talk more about the kind of person you are and the type of person you're looking for to spend time with.
You may be tempted to use an older photo of when you were younger to put your most flattering image forward, but this will only lead to potential misunderstandings and skewed expectations. You want someone who will like you for who you are, so put your best face forward, but make sure it’s your current one.
Do be careful, however, not to reveal too much. Strangers who don’t know you can look at your profile and secure details like specific names, the number of children or grandchildren in your family, and photos. Keep it simple and don’t share anything you wouldn’t talk about among a group of strangers.
Once you’ve set up your profile, be willing to stay active on it at least for a short time. Respond to your matches, but don’t feel like you have to date every person who shows interest. The power is in your hands.
Also, be aware that you may be rejected. This is normal. Don't take it personally. The other person doesn't know you and is simply looking out for their interests just like you are.
6. Be Aware of Online Scams
In addition to general online privacy concerns, keep in mind that there are bad characters out there who are regularly conducting online dating scams. Romance scammers, for instance, may create fake profiles on dating sites and apps or may reach out to you via social media.
Never reveal important information like your physical address, bank account numbers, social security number, etc. Criminals can use these to steal your money and your identity.
Scammers will eventually ask for money. Don’t send it to them, and realize that this is a sign of a scam.
7. Be Safe When Setting Up Your First Few Dates
No matter how you meet your potential date, take precautions when setting up your date. Keep your safety in mind.
That means moving from communicating online to communicating via cell phone first. Don’t give away your home phone or address until you trust this person. Make sure your first few meetings take place in a public place. You may be used to having your date pick you up and take you out, but that's not wise on the first few dates until you get to know the person better. Take your car, or use public transportation.
Tell a friend or family member where you will be and what time you’re going, and always take your mobile phone with you. Keep in mind that most first dates these days are more “meet-and-greet” date rather than full-blown dinner-and-a-movie dates. It’s common to give yourself a chance to meet the person and get to know them before investing on a regular date.
Then, during the date, feel free to ask questions. You don’t have to interrogate the person, but it is in your best interest to find out more about them. Are they who they said they were? Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, take care of yourself first.
8. Leave Your Baggage Behind on Your First Date
When you finally go on your first date, expect some jitters. That’s normal. The main thing to remember is to listen as much as you speak. You want to get to know this person for safety reasons, but also because that’s what dating is about—meeting new people and expanding your connections.
Do be careful not to compare your date to any of your past partners. This is easy to do when you’ve been around for a few decades, but it’s not good for you or your date. Focus on the person as a distinct individual, and have fun on the adventure. Every person is different, and every relationship is different, so don’t expect this one to be like any you’ve had before.
9. Practice Safe Sex
The AARP reports that rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are on the rise among older populations. Between 2005 and 2009, for instance, the number of reported cases of syphilis and chlamydia among those 55 and older increased 43 percent.
You may not be looking for a sexual relationship, but if you are, remember the old rules about using protection. Keep in mind, too, that the immune system weakens with age, which means developing an STD when you’re older could be even more serious than it would have been when you were younger.
10. Have Fun!
Many seniors find that dating later in life is more fun than dating when they were younger. They know themselves better and there are often fewer games, as everyone is tired of them.
You also don’t have to feel like you need to rush to the altar. Explore your prospects. Look around. Go on several first dates. Toss out those old rules that no longer work for you, and allow yourself to imagine a different type of companionship that fits your current lifestyle.
Do be willing to share your expectations with your dates, and respect them if they have different plans than you do for future relationships.
Finally, be patient. Finding someone you’re compatible with isn’t easy and may take time. Try to enjoy the process. Meanwhile, keep in contact with your good friends and other social connections and take good care of yourself.
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Harvard Health Publishing. “Can Relationships Boost Longevity and Well-being?” Harvard Health. Last modified June 17, 2020. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mental-health/can-relationships-boost-longevity-and-well-being.
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