Trying online dating for the first time can be daunting and foreign to many people, with the entire world of romance having changed dramatically in just a few short years. But as technologies have advanced, more and more over-60s are now turning to apps to find companionship or love.
A new Modern Dating report, published by The Australian Seniors Insurance Agency, looks at new and emerging dating trends among people aged over 50 and has found dating apps are becoming more popular among these generations. In fact, the majority of over-50s in South Australia alone (56.2 per cent) use an app or website two to three times a week.
But while there are countless positive stories from people across the world, of all ages, a few over-60s have shared their own experiences online – admitting it wasn’t all smooth sailing when they first signed up.
Starts at 60 reader Mary Rose has been browsing RSVP and Plenty of Fish for around a year – with two main encounters standing out so far. She revealed: “I emailed a guy for about 2 months. We had a heap of things in common so set up a meeting in [the] park for picnic lunch (supplied by me).
“I sat in [the] car park waiting and finally spotted him. Only problem was that his photos were over 10 years old and I actually had to phone and say is that you wearing that maroon top. Old stooped and bald – not what I was expecting. 68 going on 100. Instead of driving away I got out and met. What a waste of time! At the end I was told I’m not interested in a relationship. Why then was he on RSVP.”
The other stand-out moment happened when Mary responded to a man on Plenty of Fish, telling him a bit about herself but “without sexual connotations”. Despite her friendly greeting, she claimed: “His return email suggested we meet up half way between our locations at a motel and spend the night experimenting with sex toys and God knows what else. I didn’t even know him.”
She ultimately added: “In general these sites are full of weird people, but as I really don’t go anywhere to meet people, it was an alternative. Happy to stay single but it would be nice to connect with someone male.”
Sadly the same was true for another Starts at 60 reader, who admitted: “Yes I have tried online dating and stopped because there were too many liars and deviants.”
However, not everyone has had a negative time online. A community contributor previously shared his own experience with online dating, in a post for Starts at 60 in 2017. He insisted, while there can be scammers to watch out for, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the experience.
“Provided that people are honest about their desires and wants in their profile, that saves all of the embarrassing adolescent fumbling we all suffered many years ago!” they wrote at the time. “If you do happen to find someone who matches your desires and wants, it’s likely to be a worthwhile exercise.”
They added as a word of advice: “However, you might find that other people are not looking for the same things as you. For example, if you’re looking just for sex, make this clear so no one gets their wires crossed and potentially ends up hurt. I recommend listening to your gut – if it seems off, it probably is – and not using any identifying details, at least not initially. You don’t want your next door neighbour identifying you! To this end, when setting up your account, don’t use your Facebook profile picture, and make sure you’ve thought hard about the picture you put up.”
Elsewhere, while he’s yet to build a strong connection with anyone, Victoria man Leslie Hawkin, 90, is keen to continue his hunt for a companion to ease his loneliness after his wife of more than 60 years passed away four years ago. He is using the site Dating for Seniors, but is having trouble finding women closer to his own age – with most aged between 50 and 60. All the same, he’s continuing his hunt as, “You’ll never know if you don’t try”.
“I decided to try online dating a couple of years after my wife’s passing,” he told Starts at 60. “It was not that much of a surprise because it seemed like the logical thing to do to alleviate the loneliness.”
Leslie, who has four children, 12 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren, said his family have always been supportive of him dating again. “They have mentioned quite a few times that I should go done to the Seniors club and find myself a girl. The local seniors club holds regular dances,” he said.
“I never really know what you what I’m looking for in terms of a romantic relationship or companionship. What I’m interested in is the company. Whether that develops into a relationship or just a friend to go to the movies with is up to the Gods. It’s in the lap of the Gods.”
Asked if he thinks more needs to be done to combat loneliness in older generations, Leslie insisted: “Abso-bloody-lutely! That’s something that councils or charities should be doing. Rather than seniors needing to go to online dating. It’s something that’s sadly lacking.”
While some people see age differences as a barrier when they first start online dating, the Modern Dating report also found over half of Australians over 50 would consider dating someone considerably younger than themselves. Meanwhile, two thirds of older Aussies (63.2 per cent) say they prefer to be free to ‘play the field’ until they find the right partner.
However, Leslie admitted he would be hesitant to start a relationship with someone much younger – and would prefer to see an app more tailored to his own age group.
“I’d prefer someone only slightly younger or my age,” he said. “The only problem is that when you get to my age, there aren’t that many women that are looking for a partner. I got an email this morning from match.com. There were 24 people on it who wanted to meet me but they were all from their early 50s to mid-60s. Even if I found someone in there that was local, she’s probably not going to have much in common with me because of the age difference!
“It seems to be a far more sensible thing to have a dating site that specialises in age groups. If this was the case, I’d have more matches my own age. I only really want to receive matches from people within 10 years of my age.”
Perhaps most surprisingly, the report finally found that many people miss the old ways when it comes to dating – with many couples remembering courting, writing letters and arranging face to face dates immediately a few years ago – more than three quarters of Aussie seniors (76.1 per cent) think the modern attitude and approach to relationships has changed for the better compared to their own parents’ generation.
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