Heading into the big, bad world of dating can be an intimidating process. And when you’re in your later years, it can feel like there’s even more pressure to find someone who’s a similar age, with similar interests and who – most importantly – you actually enjoy spending time with.
And that’s exactly how one woman felt when she asked the community forum Mumsnet whether she was too old at age 54 to expect to be swept off her feet. In her post she explained she’d been in a relationship with a man for 10 months, and while being a plainly “nice” person who did the cooking and cared for her kids, she just wasn’t attracted to him.
“He’s very happy as we are, I think, but I feel I’m settling!” she wrote. “Am I too old to want to meet someone who excites me, makes my stomach churn? Someone I look forward to seeing at the end of the day. Am I stupid to give up what I have to try to find what may not exist?!”
Responses to the woman’s callout assured her that she shouldn’t settle for someone she’s not excited by, adding that you’re never too old to find the right person or to be swept off your feet.
But she’s definitely not alone in her concerns over the dating scene, with a growing number of single older Australians starting to look for love in their later years in a new digital world.
In fact, data from Australian online dating site RSVP has found that more and more older Australians are on the hunt for love. In the past three years, the number of over-50s on RSVP has increased by 57 per cent, while the number of over-60s has grown a whopping 90 per cent, as older Australians seemingly become more comfortable with meeting people online.
And although it’s fair to say online dating can still carry negative stigmas that were formed decades ago, the reality is that websites have spent copious amounts of time and money building the most secure online platforms, full of viable options for those looking to form meaningful relationships.
Dave Heysen, CEO of RSVP, said there’s plenty of reasons to be comfortable with online dating, including the increased levels of security, as well as the fact many dating sites run on a subscription basis, meaning that it’s free to sign up but messaging people requires making a payment.
“The great thing about RSVP is that it is for people who genuinely want to meet someone who wants to form relationships,” he said. “To contact someone, you actually have to pay to do so, which in some ways gets rid of the riff-raff.”
Once you’ve narrowed down the playing field, it’s all about presentation according to Heysen, who says a good profile can go far in terms of standing out from the crowd and finding the best of the bunch. And the first – and often the hardest – part to tackle in profile building is the photos.
“Photos are the key and when I talk about photos I don’t just mean portrait photos or shots where you think you look the best,” he said. “It’s about your lifestyle and what you do. We have galleries of up to 15 photos and the ones we find are the most successful express what activities you do or where you’ve travelled. A picture says a thousand words.”
Next, you shouldn’t be afraid to put your best foot forward when it comes to filling out the details about yourself. Throwing in your interests and likes while also choosing what you’re searching for in a partner will help to weed out anyone who isn’t worth your time.
Algorithms on the site will pair you up with people who are in a similar boat and who share your interests, which is always a great way to kick-off conversation. But Heysen warns you should be wary of pigeonholing yourself and closing yourself off to potential pairings simply because they don’t fit your criteria.
“You join it and you think, I’m looking for someone who lives near me, who’s a similar age to me – they’re probably the most important criteria – and then you can get into details such as your interests, [right] down to eye colour, down to religion,” he said.
“So that’s a great way to start and to see what the website has in those areas, but there’s a whole lot more to the site in terms of people we discover for you based on your behaviour and also search criteria to see what’s out there as well.”
In fact, a 2017 study from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), which looked at the profiles of almost 42,000 RSVP profiles, found that more people were making contact with those who fell outside of their seeking criteria than those within it.
There’s no rush to jump into anything, and most dating sites are fully aware that meeting people online can be a new and scary process. This is why platforms are generally built to ensure users can ease their way into it rather than take the immediate plunge.
Tips for taking it slow can include trawling through the site to see how others are presenting themselves online before you start your own profile, and even making some initial contacts to test the waters.
“A lot of people take their time with RSVP,” Heysen said. “It’s quite a detailed process, although it’s very quick and easy to join up and have a look. Once you get into it there’s lots of stuff you can do. So it’s not about rushing into it, it’s about taking your time and expressing yourself properly.”
Heysen added that there’s “no harm” in meeting people online and making contact with someone you might be interested in, so long as you’re not sharing personal contact details. Keeping the communication within the safe boundaries of the website and then taking safety precautions if you do plan to meet up will ensure that meeting people online is as safe – if not safer – than meeting face to face.
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