As older people get more digitally savvy, dating apps grow in popularity. Widows and other singles in their 60s and up are swiping and searching for mates, following in the footsteps of younger generations.
While the pandemic led to increased usage of online date-matching platforms, the trends were already in place before anyone heard of Covid-19. In 2019, nearly one-fifth (19%) of people age 55-64 tried dating apps along with 13% of the over-64 crowd, according to Pew Research Center.
“Over the last 10 years, 60+ is one of the fastest-growing groups of online daters,” said Damona Hoffman, a Los Angeles-based certified dating coach. And that growth has accelerated over the last 18 months.
For newcomers, she offers three tips to get started:
1. Vet the offerings. With an ever-increasing number of dating apps vying for your attention, focus on the pool of participants that each service offers—and where they reside. Beware of generic rankings that don’t take into account your specific situation.
“The best dating app in one place may not be the best for you where you live,” said Hoffman, host of the Dates & Mates podcast. Consider to what extent a particular app attracts people in your same age bracket and geographic location.
2. Seek simplicity. As the functionality improves of various apps, older users may find them easier to navigate and less intimidating. Swiping is quick—a kind of instant accept-or-reject process. Some apps limit the number of matches to one per day, helping newbies go slow and not get overwhelmed.
3. Sample without risk. When it comes to dating apps, the barrier to entry is fairly low. New entrants emerge constantly so tracking their effectiveness, data security safeguards, quality of user experience and other criteria is difficult. “Most are free to create an account,” Hoffman said. “The only investment is your time to create a profile.”
One of the biggest roadblocks for older singles, especially women, involves the prevailing belief that potential mates prefer to date people who are much younger. But Hoffman disputes that assumption.
“Studies show that even if a man seeks an age range that’s younger, he will still message you if he finds you attractive and you’re above his stated age range,” she said. “Their actions are not necessarily in alignment with what they think they want.”
Hoffman urges singles in their 60s and 70s to rethink other assumptions as well. For instance, they may expect a man to follow a chivalry code and set an online dialogue in motion.
“I encourage women, especially older women, to be more willing to initiate contact,” she said. “Don’t get locked into these roles” where you wait for the man to launch the conversation. Women who initiate messages attain better outcomes than those who only react after a man reaches out, she adds.
When exchanging messages with someone, distinguish between boilerplate language and personal content. Beware of individuals who sound romantic but don’t customize their writing to refer to your profile.
Hoffman cites the example of an older woman who raved about a man’s gushing comments (“You are so beautiful. I can spend the rest of my life with you.”). But Hoffman knew better.
“I could tell within 15 seconds it was a scam,” she said. “He wrote emotionally but without being personal. It could’ve applied to anybody.”
Another red flag: Potential mates cultivate an online relationship, start asking for things (gift cards, money, etc.) and gradually ratchet up the requests.
In some cases, singles can pursue a seemingly desirable individual who’s strangely resistant to meeting in person. These texting courtships rarely end well.
When advising clients, Hoffman insists that they advance from a few rounds of initial texting to a live phone call or video chat.
“Some people feel that if they chat online for a few weeks, they know the other person really well,” she said. “But they develop a false sense of security with that person. It’s asynchronous communication; they haven’t had any real-time conversation. Then when they actually meet face-to-face, there’s often disappointment.”