Online dating is arguably the most popular way for seniors to meet someone new. Of the 54 million single people in the United States, 40 million of them have at least tried online dating (according to Statistic Brain.com)
Despite this, online dating still carries with it misconceptions about safety, cost, and effectiveness. Here’s a guide to help you sort out the myths from the facts.
Dating for Seniors: Who Can You Find Online?
Online dating does not have the stigma it once did, in part because more people have used it successfully. Today, a senior’s children may even suggest he or she go online to find love. Check out these statistics from the dating site Perfect Match.
- In their quest for love and companionship, computer users aged 55+, accounted for 16.7% of all traffic to on-line personal sites (Internet research firm, Nielsen/NetRatings, 2006).
- The 50+ segment is the fastest growing group of subscribers for on-line dating (Lehman Brothers Equity Research, February 2007).
- Women and men 50+ are using on-line dating and relationship websites because the stigma of an on-line personal ad is fading, and their adult children are leading them to on-line dating (AARP, December 2005).
- Seventy-four percent of the 10 million Internet users have pursued their romantic interests on-line (Pew Internet and American Life Project March 2006).
With online dating, you’re able to tap into a pool of people you might never have discovered otherwise. You’ll probably even meet people who frequent the same stories and restaurants you do. It’s a misconception that online daters are people who never get out. Most people who date online choose to do so because it introduces them to people that they would not have met through other sources, like set ups from friends or going to church, for example.
Senior Celebrities Dating Online
Carrie Ann Inaba, Jenny McCarthy, Martha Stewart, and Joan Rivers have all dated online. Stewart even talked about her search on the Today show, saying “I just want everybody to know that, because I want other women in a similar situation to mine to realize that it can be done.”
Inaba and Rivers both met guys online that they dated for a long time, and it’s arguably much more difficult to meet someone online if you’re a celebrity than if you’re not famous.
How to Get Started – Choosing a Site
Many senior daters choose sites that are targeted to them, but the reality is that any site can work. Match.com, for example, bills itself as one of the largest sites, and it certainly has been around longer than most. A site like Match.com can introduce you to someone just as easily as a niche site can.
Here some information on the top sites, along with a tip on how to use sites that might not be listed here.
Match.com welcomes people from all ages, but for midlifers, it’s a particularly good option, especially if you’re new to the online dating world. The site offers a visual directive on how online dating works and if you’re still not convinced, they show you several success stories of couples who have met on the site.
The bonus in using Match.com is their large and diversified membership base. You are bound to find someone special, and they are so sure you will, they are currently offering six months free if you don’t.
Senior People Meet is a sister company of Match.com and is under the “People Media” umbrella, which has several niche dating sites, including OurTime.com. Our Time has over one million single people over the age of 50. The site also works as an online community for those looking for friendship or pen pals.
eHarmony matches people based on a comprehensive questionnaire that dives into aspects of your personality and preferences like attitudes about how to spend free time to sense of humor. This is meant to match you with someone that will be a good fit for you on many different levels in order to create a lasting relationship.
Daters who enjoy this site say they like having the matches delivered to them without having to navigate around the site and contact people.
AARP has launched its own dating site with How About We. They differentiate themselves by encouraging you to post the type of dates you want to go on. Then, when someone responds they can say “How about we…” and fill in the blank with a readymade date idea. This means the focus changes from the back and forth emails that are sent to the date itself. It’s about finding something you enjoy doing and then getting matched with someone else who likes doing the same thing.
The site sends you matches and also allows you to contact others.
Perfect Match operates almost as a combination of Match.com and eHarmony. The site allows you to search for dates while it matches you with compatible people. The site’s questionnaire and matching program, called the Duet® Total Compatibility System, matches you on “personality, lifestyle, values and preferences.” The site also offers a step-by-step guide to help you craft your online profile.
Video dating profiles are another unique feature to Perfect Match. Daters can attend a free event where they will get a professionally produced short (2-5 minute) video designed to showcase your personality. When the video is complete, it will go up on the Perfect Match site as well as the local Dating on Demand channel in your area.
The sites listed here are generally considered some of the larger dating sites, but there are several niche sites that could be a good option for you as well, depending on what you’re looking for. Often these sites will be centered around a particular interest (such as bowling, golfing, environmental awareness, etc.), and can therefore help match you with someone who automatically shares at least one of your hobbies.
Creating Your Profile
Once you chose a site, the next step is setting up a profile. Don’t rush this step because it’s an important one. Your profile will act as your online billboard, and give potential matches a sense of your personality. In a sense, it’s what will first attract someone to you.
Choose a Realistic Photo That Is Current
The first thing someone will notice about you online is your picture. Don’t get upset by this, it’s the nature of online dating. Potential matches won’t know you yet and a photo is one of the first ways they gage an opinion about you.
Always use photos that are current and help “tell your story.” The photos should give a sense of your personality just as much as your essay and headline do.
The best photos are the ones taken by friends when you’re just hanging out. Have a pal snap several photos of you with a digital camera, and choose the one that best reflects your smile and personality.
Photos you should take include:
- One great headshot that shows you from the shoulders up, with a clear view of your face and smiling naturally.
- One full-length photo of you doing something you enjoy.
- One or two shots that show you doing things you like, such as going on vacation, gardening, or even reading.
You don’t need to be a professional writer in order to write a good essay. Use your natural voice to describe who you and are and what you’re looking for. Limit your essay to two or three paragraphs, so matches will want to contact you to find out more.
The number one thing to remember: Stay positive! Don’t use your essay to complain about your dating life or even your ex’s.
Another thing to avoid is making a laundry list of attributes about yourself. This doesn’t help describe your personality and ends up sounding more like a resume than a profile that will entice daters. Always use descriptive words, such as “I enjoy small restaurants where you sit table to table and enjoy the conversations and people watch” rather than, “I like to eat out,” for instance.
Don’t Forget a Cute Headline
Your profile headline should be more snappy than just “Looking for love” or “Trying This Out.” Use this space to say something about your personality. Use a movie line you like, a few words from a favorite poem, or even something that talks about your hobbies as your headline. It will help your profile stand out, and in the online world when you’ve got thousands of other profiles to compete against, that’s extremely important.
How to Get More Matches
The matching system on most online dating sites is counterintuitive, meaning that they encourage you to mark off criteria that you don’t want (such as smokers or certain body types). However, in order to get more matches to your inbox, you need to be more inclusive.
Online dating is a means for an introduction to a date, not a way to weed out people you don’t want to date. Open up your search criteria in every area (income, body type, hobbies, etc.) , and instead let your photos and essay help match you with the right person.
The Coffee Date
To meet your matches, choose a local coffee shop that is central to where you both are located. Drive separately and meet your date there. Before your date, set up the expectation that you can only meet for one hour. Then, after the hour is up, thank your date for coming out and say you’ll follow up with an email.
This helps reduce the awkwardness of “having to end a date” because the expectation has already been set. When the hour is up, you simply look at your watch and remind your date that you need to go.
If you liked your date, you can follow up with an email suggesting you two get together again sometime. If you didn’t, you might want to give it another coffee date, or just tell them you didn’t think you were a good match. Always be polite and but genuine. Don’t lie to your dates but do all you can to be kind and not hurt their feelings.
The reason a coffee works is because:
- You each pay for your own coffee
- It’s inexpensive
- Coffee shops are centrally located
- It’s easy to wait for a date there
- You can sit and have a nice conversation there but you also have the benefit of people watching to distract you.
Keeping Your Profile Updated
To stay at the top of the search results for new matches that sign on to the system, make one small change to your profile each week. This could be a book you read, movie you hope to see, or just a comment on the weather. Doing this will keep your profile “current” and as a result you’ll show up in more searches.
Pulling Your Profile
Eventually, you’ll meet someone you really like and want to date exclusively. This means you’ll have to pull your profile by letting the dating site know that you’re involved. Depending on the site you use, you can make your profile “inactive” for a short time, or just delete it altogether (if you feel that the relationship is headed in a positive direction.)
Before you take your profile down, however, be sure you discuss it with your partner. Never assume that they feel the same way until you talk with them. They could keep their profile up and continue to communicate with matches even while they are dating you unless you make it clear this isn’t what you want.
A good rule of thumb is to continue to send out emails to potential matches until you’ve met someone you want to date exclusively. Then, have a conversation with your partner about you each pulling your profiles for awhile.