Dating is a challenge no matter your age. It can be particularly daunting if you are an older adult whose first date might have been at a malt shop and who's more into book clubs than bar scenes. So before entering the dating world again, it's good to understand both the good and the bad about dating as a senior.
- Gone is the awkward, pimple-faced teenager. Today you're a mature adult, comfortable with who you are and with life experiences and interests that you are ready to share with others. You have lots to offer! And your radar is more finely tuned to help you avoid making the mistakes of the past.
- The death of a spouse or an ugly divorce might have left you unexpectedly single. Give yourself time to grieve and heal. Crying into your napkin or incessantly complaining about your ex does not make for a great first date. Filling the void with someone just like your husband or wife is unlikely, so it's important to be ready for new and different people.
- Your adult children might object to your dating. They might be afraid you'll get hurt or taken advantage of or they might simply have trouble imagining you with anybody other than their father or mother. Before you start dating, assure them you will be cautious and remind them you are not only a parent but also a person who desires companionship and, yes, even romance.
Despite these differences, the basic rules of dating still apply. Present your best self, and look well-groomed. People with similar interests still make good companions, so join a mixed doubles tennis team if you love tennis or volunteer for the campaign of a local candidate you support. Despite rumors to the contrary, chivalry and good manners are not dead and especially are appreciated by mature women.
Although meeting people at events and through friends and family is still the norm, undoubtedly the biggest change in dating is the advent of online dating websites. Once considered a last resort for the desperate, today they are used effectively by millions, with individuals over 60 making up these sites' fastest-growing demographic.
Simply put, online dating is a service that allows a community of people to gather, meet each other, and interact socially. Websites abound for every population imaginable. Some focus on certain age groups: ourtime.com is popular for the over-50 crowd; while some are faith-based such as jdate.com for Jewish singles. Farmersonly.com quips “city folks just don't get it.” Sites that focus on military personnel include militarycupid.com or usmilitarysingles.com. If you're disabled, try dating4disabled.com. Most sites charge a modest fee but usually allow a free trial period during which you can see prospective matches.
If done correctly, the benefits of online dating far outweigh any shortcomings. Online dating sites allow you to identify and reach out to people who pique your interest without the discomfort of face-to-face rejection. You can be specific about your likes and dislikes and avoid wasting time on a date with someone you clearly have nothing in common with. You can start slowly and meet someone in person only if and when you're ready. You can define the kind of relationship you're looking for, whether it's a friend to enjoy foreign movies with or a more serious long-term commitment.
Just as in traditional dating, rejection and disappointment are not uncommon. Here are some tips to help you avoid them:
- Be honest. Posting pictures of yourself is encouraged, but don't use the wonders of modern technology to create a new you. Skydiving might help you appear youthful and adventurous, but if the last time you jumped was in 1992, you're better off including more current interests.
- Be detailed, to a point. The more you express who you are and what you are looking for, the better success you'll have. Letting people know you collect Star Wars figurines is fine, but don't forget to include more telling information about your personality and interests so you don't get pigeon-holed. Fortunately, most websites have questionnaires to assist you in developing your profile. Is facial hair a deal breaker? By all means, include that in the “can't stand” section, but realize you might miss out on meeting a wonderful man who can always shave.
- Take steps to protect your identity by setting up a new email just for dating, and don't use your name in your user ID, so you can avoid unwanted contact. Share facts about your work and family, but avoid specifics for now. Mention you're an economics professor but not at which school.
The truth is, dating as a senior citizen can be easy, fun, and rewarding. Keep in mind fitness enthusiast Bonnie Pruden's words of wisdom: “You can't turn back the clock, but you can wind it up again.”