In pop culture, a typical picture of online dating consists of attractive twenty-somethings swiping their way through Tinder. That’s true, but the reality is a lot more nuanced.
One of those nuances is that dating for seniors now often begins online, which may come as a surprise to your kids and grandkids. Now more than ever, meeting online may be the most realistic way to find a new romance.
Dating for Seniors
Meeting someone new isn’t easy at any age, but it gets more complicated once you lose interest in trying your luck at the local nightspots. Even in an ideal scenario, where you have plenty of opportunities for social contact with people in your own age group, the pool of potential dates may not be large. If you haven’t dated in years – or decades – it can also be daunting to take that first step with someone you’ll see regularly.
Online dating offers a lot of advantages over doing things the traditional way. For one, it opens the door to a much larger pool of potential pairings. It also gives you the opportunity to pre-screen your potential dates for shared interests and goals, or deal-breaking attitudes or character flaws.
You’ll have the opportunity to engage in extended conversations about anything and everything, while deciding if you want to meet in person. You might find yourself gaining good friends, even if you never progress to romance. Overall, it’s a good way to dip a cautious toe back into the dating pool.
Decide What You Want from Dating
Before you start setting up accounts on dating sites, it’s important to think carefully about what you want to get out of the experience. Are you looking for a casual companion for “friend dates,” and nothing more? A long-term romance, or possible marriage? A purely physical succession of quick flings? They’re all possibilities.
You’ll also want to decide who fits your profile as a potential partner. Age is an important part of that evaluation, but only a part: you’ll also want to consider personal beliefs, personal background and especially what you want out of the potential relationship. This kind of forethought can limit potential mismatches. The classic example is one partner looking for long-term romance and one looking for a quick trist, but an extroverted triathlete and a bookish introvert with mobility issues would also struggle to find common ground.
Defining who and what you want from a dating site can also help you determine which sites you choose, and which strategy you’ll pursue. Sites that focus specifically on older singles mean you’ll be interacting with people in a similar demographic range. On the other hand, especially if you’re at the younger end of the “older single” spectrum, joining a general-population dating site means you may enjoy a broader pool of potential matches.
Once you have your goals and preferences clearly outlined, it’s time to dive into the world of online dating. Below, we explore a few of the most popular sites, and how to decide which one is best for you.
Easing In? Try Our Time
If you want to test the waters of online dating, Our Time might be a good starting point. The signup process is simple and both the site and mobile app are well thought out and easy to use. You won’t be intimidated even if you aren’t the most tech-savvy person.
Our Time is a sociable place, with a laid-back vibe. It’s well-suited to nervous newcomers who aren’t sure how much commitment they’re looking for. Sure, you can find a new life partner here if that’s what you want, but you can also opt to just kick back and enjoy socializing. Want to find someone to cycle or hike with? A great online friend you can vent to and commiserate with? Those options are here too. The site also organizes group in-person meetups, where you can meet lots of people face-to-face in a low-risk setting.
The pool of users here is reasonably large and your profile will also get exposure on a couple of senior-oriented sister sites, so there’ll be plenty of opportunity to find suitable matches. Retirement Living rated Our Time at 4.25 stars out of 5 in its 2020 review of dating sites.
Zoosk Takes a “Netflix” Approach
Zoosk is an all-ages dating site, but setting an upper and lower age limit for potential matches quickly winnows its tens of millions of users to only those who fit your chosen age bracket. From there, the company makes it easy for you to narrow down the people you’re interested in interacting with.
When you first sign up you’ll complete a brief “about you” questionnaire as part of the process. Zoosk uses that information, plus the search options you choose, to create an initial selection of potential matches for you. After that, based on who you respond to positively, it refines its algorithm to suggest ever-more-targeted potential matches. It’s the same approach you see on sites like Netflix and Amazon, where the more you interact, the better its suggestions become.
To put it another way, you don’t need to become an expert in Zoosk because Zoosk will become an expert in you.
eHarmony For Seniors
If your strategy involves viewing the largest possible pool of matches, whether they fit strictly within your own age group or not, you might want to look at eHarmony. Among the major dating sites, it has a well-deserved reputation as the place to be if you’re looking for a serious long-term relationship.
Founded by a clinical psychologist, eHarmony pioneered the application of serious science to affairs of the heart. It seems to work, with the site boasting proudly of over 2 million successful marriages resulting from the matchmaking prowess of its algorithms.
The corresponding downside to eHarmony is that you’ll spend a lot of time filling out its questionnaire. This isn’t a casual, dip-your-toe adventure; winnowing out the minimally committed is baked in as a deliberate part of the service’s design. It’s also one of the pricier dating services, but when you have this kind of established track record you can definitely charge a premium. Although it’s not an explicitly senior-oriented site, Retirement Living rated it at a very solid 4.6 stars out of 5, with cost being its biggest negative.
Bespoke Dating on Silver Singles
If you like the idea of eHarmony’s in-depth psychology-based matching, but would prefer to apply it in a purely 50+ setting, Silver Singles may be the site for you. As with eHarmony you’ll answer a lengthy questionnaire that helps the service create a detailed personality profile. The company’s algorithm combines that with your own stated preferences and aspirations to arrive at suggested matches.
Once you’re set up, you’ll start seeing potential matches on an easy-to-use dashboard. Each potential match shows a compatibility score, with a higher number representing a better match. F rom there you can reach out to those who interest you, and respond – or not – to messages from anyone whose interest has been piqued by your profile. You can also see who has viewed your profile without messaging.
If you find the matches you’re getting aren’t quite what you’re looking for, you can refine your profile until you start seeing the results you want.
What About Free Sites?
One potential downside to dating sites is that most of them cost money. There’s usually a free trial so you can get a feel for how the site works, but you’ll typically find yourself locked out of features like chat or advanced search options until you pony up a few dollars. Prices vary by site, but a single-month signup often comes in at around $29 with deep discounts for a longer subscription that can sometimes halve your per-month cost.
In contrast, there are numerous free dating sites like the popular Plenty of Fish. Some are completely free, while others work on a “freemium” basis that lets you get started for free and then pick and choose from a menu of paid upgrades. So, why would you choose to pay for something you can get for free?
Often, the answer comes down to features, privacy and protection. It costs money to maintain and develop a website, so free sites may lack features you’d take for granted on a paid site. Also, money to keep the lights on has to come from somewhere. If you’re not paying to use the site, someone else is probably paying the site, in turn, for user data. Most importantly, paid sites often screen for scammers, sex offenders and those with criminal records, which can make your entry into the world of online dating less worrisome.
In short, you may find that “you get what you pay for” is still a good rule.
Helpful Hints for Online Dating
If you Google “tips for online dating” you’ll get buried in results, some of them offering up checklists of rules and others telling you to break them. The single most important rule is to just be yourself, in your photos, your profile and your interactions with potential matches. You can’t expect someone to appreciate you for who you are, if you’re pretending to be someone you’re not.
Of course, romance scams are a very real “thing” to be alert for, and there are a number of common-sense precautions you’ll need to take in order to date safely and successfully online. A profile picture that looks too professionally-done, for example, might be a red flag that it’s actually a shot of a professional model that someone misappropriated. When in doubt, use Spokeo’s people search tools to research whether the name, number or e-mail address you’ve been given corresponds to a real person who lives where they say they do.
Most of all, don’t stress too much. As with so many things in life, it’s about the journey as much as the destination. Through the sites’ online chat and messaging platforms you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the company of people you’d never have met in our own community and create a few lasting friendships along your road to romance. That’s a solid win, by any standard.