If you're recently widowed, have been through a divorce, or just ended a long-term relationship, dating can be scary. Even if you've never settled down, been single for a while, are too busy to date, or are just not interested, it can be hard to decide to date again.
These may be some of your concerns:
- It’s been so long since you last dated you have no idea what to do.
- You recently lost someone or ended a relationship and don't know if you're ready to date.
- You want to meet new friends, potentially a partner, but aren't too sure about the dating part.
- Most people over 60 seem to be looking for long-term relationships, but you want a fling.
- You don't know your way around the online dating jungle, but you want to try it out.
Here's the deal—most people don't know what to expect when they start dating again. At the tender age of 25, I remember losing my long-term boyfriend and not knowing what to do. By not having a clue, I mean I didn't know how to flirt.
When I first went to a club again, I asked a friend what to do. How do you flirt? The first thing, she said, was to look people in the eye and see if they held eye contact with you.
That’s all I knew that night. And I’m still in contact with the guy I met then.
Sometimes, we just have to take the plunge. The good thing? We don’t have to go diving. You can stick your toes in the water and do things step-by-step. No, maybe you aren’t ready for a relationship, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out there and meet people to see how you feel about it. All you have to do is look them in the eye and see what happens.
We spoke to online dating coach Ollie Pearce, who told Age Times: "The online dating phenomenon has now touched all stratas of society. In recent years, there has been a huge increase in users over the age of 60.
"This surge of senior usage has been greatly affected by social media use in general. Older members of society are using Instagram and TikTok and realising that they are part of a huge community of like-minded single souls of a similar age."
Now, let's look at some tips to make your journey easier.
Mix up online and offline dating
It's easy to meet people online, so you should download some dating apps and join online dating sites.
That doesn’t mean you should stop meeting people offline. New relationships are more easily formed when we see someone regularly. Whether you want to meet new friends or singles over 50, it's vital to look out for social events in your area.
An active social life will make you more likely to meet someone you fall in love with. It also means you won't obsess over someone who doesn't text you back after a date or feel lonely when you haven't met your perfect match yet.
Don't limit your dating platforms to the online world. Instead, join the local gym, attend classes and workshops, attend networking events, start a business that connects you with others, join local clubs, and partake in volunteering.
The bottom line is to have fun. Fill your diary with things that inspire and enable you to connect with like-minded people. Don’t rely on one outlet—mix things up.
Expectations (and how to manage them)
When I was younger, I used to go to bars hoping to meet the love of my life. Then I felt miserable when there wasn't anyone I connected with. Then, I got so busy living my life at some point that I didn't care. What's more, I went out to have fun, not to meet someone. And that's the attitude you need to have when you join online dating sites, classes, workshops, and organisations to meet people with similar interests.
I've travelled a lot, so I know sites like Meetup.com and InterNations.org can help you meet many people. I also know you'll attend events and not click with a single soul. But if you keep at it, you will eventually meet someone you connect with, whether as a friend or potential partner.
Dating websites are fantastic as you'll meet many people in one place—many more than can be squeezed into the local pub!
On the flip side, you don't get a real grasp of someone online. You need to meet in real life to determine if there is chemistry and find out if they look like their photos - unless you do a video call first!
That means you'll start talking to 100 people online, meeting 50, and feeling like ten are worth pursuing. It's a numbers game.
Also, beware that online dating sites can be overwhelming. You don't meet ten people, but ten thousand. As a result, you start talking to twelve people in one go. You end up favouring five and forget messaging the rest. Out of those five, two favour you and the other three fall by the wayside as they're busy talking to the people they connected with.
In short, a match online doesn't mean you'll click with them or even meet them in real life.
Meet early on
If you can, meet someone for a coffee as soon as possible. Otherwise, you might spend hundreds of hours talking to someone you might not like.
If you can't meet, get on a video call.
As I said in the beginning, you might not know what you’re looking for. That’s fine. So long as you say that to potential dates. Tell them you want to make new connections, but it’s the first time you’re dating in a while, so you want to take your time getting to know people and not rush things. You don’t know if you’re ready for a relationship.
If you know you’re only looking for friendship or casual dating, then be upfront about that. Want a serious relationship? Then say so. But don't expect to jump right into something, or you'll scare people off. Instead, take your time to get to know people—it's the best way to avoid disappointment.
The best dating sites
As mentioned, you should try online dating if you haven’t already. Join a couple of select dating sites and apps.
Sites like Bumble, eHarmony, and Tinder have the most daters in their dating pool. Sites like OurTime have fewer members, but it’s a niche dating site, so you’re more likely to find older people using it.
Have a look around and see what sites appeal to you. Stay away from any that don’t have any online reviews. They’re more likely to have scammers using them (more about that later).
The dating profile
Some people think dating profiles don’t matter.
They are wrong.
Thanks to online dating sites, you have thousands of singles to choose from. But unlike in real life, it's challenging to get a proper "first impression" of someone. And as you have thousands of people to choose from, chances are you aren't likely to "swipe right" on someone unless you feel they're worth your time.
You don't need a lengthy profile. In fact, it may put people off. But you need one long enough that people get an idea of who you are and what you love in life. What excites you about life is what needs to go into that profile. People want to see if they think they can be happy with you. They don't want to hear about your failed relationships, issues with the neighbour's cat, that you're willing to lie about how you met, or that you have a new Mercedes.
See your profile as a teaser. If you like the teaser for a new movie, you'll go and see it.
You need a few lines about who you are and what you love, at least five photos of yourself, including one close-up of your face (not an extreme close-up), and one full body shot. Preferably, you will also have some pictures where you're doing things you love with the people you love. It enables people to see you have a life.
This doesn't mean you should lie. People don't need to think your life is fantastic—everyone has their struggles. But they need to see the things you enjoy, so they can see if you're the kind of person they'd enjoy spending time with.
Spark interesting conversations
Whether you talk to someone online or offline, get interesting conversations going. “How are you?” and “How was your day?” get boring fast.
Here are some conversation starters/things to keep the conversation going:
- What made you smile today?
- What are five things you’re passionate about?
- Do you have any passion projects?
- What do you enjoy the most about where you live?
- Is there any book or movie that has changed your life?
- If there’s one thing you could do for the world, what would it be?
- What are three wishes you have?
- What are some things you want to experience in life?
- Do you see yourself living where you are in the long term or moving?
- What experiences have you had that were genuinely mindblowing?
- What's one book or movie you'd want me to read or watch?
- What’s the best thing about having a relationship?
People are constantly fretting about online scams. The best way to avoid them are:
- If you join a dating site and quickly receive messages from twenty people who appear too good to be true, chances are it's the dating site that created those profiles themselves. Of course, you will always get a lot of matches when you first join, as you'll be first in the matching queue. Still, there's a difference between getting many messages and getting unrealistic ones.
- If someone asks for your details or money or assistance with things, a warning bell should go off.
- Don’t hand out your social media handles to someone if you share private information on your social media accounts.
- Ask to meet someone in real life as soon as possible. If they live far away, get on a video call as quickly as possible.
- If someone is free today and every day but claims to have some high-flying job or is never free even though they don't work and aren't married, you might want to ask why.
- Always meet someone several times in real life before you start sharing personal details. Preferably, meet some of their friends for a social event, like beers at the local pub once you've established a friendship.
There are as many crooked people online as offline—use common sense and take things slow.
Great first dates
You don't know if you'll have much to talk about if you meet someone online through a dating service. You chat online, but will there be chemistry in real life?
Naturally, you’re nervous.
That's why you shouldn't plan a two-hour meal with someone. They may end up as someone you feel you have nothing in common with.
Instead, plan a quick coffee or a stroll along a busy beach. That way, you can drink a takeaway coffee or eat ice cream as you walk. By walking, you will naturally find things to talk about and look at. It takes the pressure away from keeping the conversation going the whole time.
You can also do things like going bowling or going to a mini-golf place.
Also, plan a few topics of conversation up front, but if you end up discussing other things while on the date, that’s cool. Don’t be rigid.
Another tip is to always aim to be the better person. Yes, they may be dull as dishwater. But you can still try to get a smile out of them and leave them feeling better than when you met them. Offer compliments, be kind, and encourage them. And you never know—this may be what they need to open up and move forward as a better person.
The bottom line is to do something short and sweet, so it doesn't put too much pressure on you to stay with someone for a long time and come up with things to discuss. Try doing an activity together if you can, as it leads to natural topics of conversation. Even just going to a quirky place, like a themed coffee shop, can give you something to talk about.
Oh, and make it clear immediately that you want to meet for a quick chat and that you have plans after. That way, you don't have to make awkward excuses if the date is a disaster. This is some of the best dating advice you’ll get for your first date. As someone who has been there and done that, I can attest to it.
Get a life
I implied this earlier, but the best way to go about dating is to fill your diary with things that uplift you before you start to date. By filling your life with joy, you aren't overly concerned about meeting your next happily ever after. You also build confidence, and you'll be most attractive when you're confident and happy with your life.
Sometimes life is tough. You may feel down in the dumps if you've lost your spouse or been through a divorce. As a result, you may not have been as social as before or may eat more comfort foods or exercise less. And the thought of going out may scare you more than excite you. A comedy night no longer seems funny to you. Nothing does.
But once you start exercising, spending time outdoors, attending social events, eating good food, and doing everything else that used to make you feel great, you'll slowly get back to being yourself. At first, it'll feel pointless, but slowly, slowly, things will come together.
If you're feeling down in the dumps, don't hesitate to contact a therapist, counsellor, or life coach. We all need support. It's human. And if we've lost someone close, it can be tricky to navigate the waters as our whole world has been turned upside down.
And don't overwhelm yourself when you get out there and do new things. Take it step-by-step.
Enjoy the ride
If you're diving into senior dating, it is a time for going on the kind of dates you didn't in your teens.
You may not be fuelled with teenage hormones, but you can enjoy doing the things you never got around to in your teens—be that wild or romantic dates.
Appreciate that you will meet people you don't gel with and others with whom you'll have a splendid time. Don't get downtrodden by a few bad dates. I always say it's like a romantic comedy—you've got to see the humour. It's usually less funny when you're the protagonist. Still, if you look at it from the outside, it's hilarious that date number one had no teeth, date number two still had his mother doing his laundry, and date number three didn't ask you a single question the whole date, just had you doing the questioning.
Try to find a buddy to support you in your online and offline dating journey. Maybe even some senior single that’s embarking on the journey with you. Just don’t compare yourself to them too much—they may find love sooner or later than you do. Joining the dating scene is different for everyone.
Lastly, those mature singles are the same as singles in other age groups—they are people looking for connection.