Swiping, chatting, ghosting, and scammers — online dating is complicated for digital natives used to communicating mainly online. But what if you’re giving it a shot for the first time in your 60s?
“I felt a little too old to be out in bars trying to pick up women,” said Bruce, a 66-year-old from Long Island, New York, who started online dating using Zoosk more than two years ago (Zoosk is a general dating website, but one that’s popular among older singles). “I was a little hesitant because I hadn’t dated in a long time — I was married for 26 years or so — but I thought online dating would be a good way to break the ice, and everybody’s equal on the internet.”
For those 65 and older, a group with much higher marriage rates than young adults, online dating can be an easier way to meet other singles and people outside of their friend groups. According to Pew Research, the rate of people ages 55 to 64 using dating sites and apps doubled between 2013 and 2016. And as of last fall, 13 percent of people 65 and older have gone online to find love compared to 48 percent of those aged 18 to 29. That number is likely increasing, especially now that the pandemic has forced everyone, but especially higher-risk seniors, to socially distance.
“As you get older, it’s much harder to meet people,” says Rita, 67, from Long Island. “I always had luck just running into people — I met my second husband at a record shop — but after he died, I was lonely for sure.” She found that browsing online became the new spontaneous meet-cute. (Spoiler alert: She met and then started dating Bruce on Zoosk!)
As these seniors prove, the highs and the lows of joining a dating website can happen at any age — even in the middle of a pandemic. Here, five people over 60 share their experiences with finding love on the internet.
“Sometimes I feel like part of it is my age, that people might think that I’m either gullible or a target financially”
Janet, 68, New York, New York
I went back on dating sites a little bit more seriously in the last year because you hear so many success stories, so you think, “Okay, fine. Maybe I’m just not doing it correctly.” But personally, I haven’t had too much success. I was on Zoosk for about a year, and I had three scammers. In two of the cases, I found out it wasn’t their real pictures. In this day and age, you only have to Google somebody’s name. Or you’ll try to make plans — this is pre-pandemic — and they’ll say, “No, I can’t do it. Oh, I’m traveling. Oh, I’m stuck here.” I also found that anybody who says they’re a civil engineer is a scammer because they have to go to places like Malaysia or Indonesia to build some roads or a bridge — and then they need money because they can’t get back.
Sometimes I feel like part of it is my age, that people might think that I’m either gullible or a target financially. But I don’t want to be a nurse, a purse, or worse. I’m actually speaking with somebody tonight that I met on Coffee Meets Bagel who seems pretty normal. But I suggested a FaceTime first so I can actually see if he matches his picture.
“In my profile, I said that I wasn’t looking for drama”
Bruce, 66, Long Island, New York
I wanted to try online dating because I felt a little too old to be out in bars trying to pick up women. I’m youthful, but you know, it’s just not easy for me at this point. I wasn’t nervous, but I was a little hesitant because I hadn’t dated in a long time — I was married for 26 years or so — but I thought online dating would be a good way to break the ice, and everybody’s equal on the internet.
I tried Zoosk because I heard it was better for older people. In my profile, I said that I wasn’t looking for drama, just looking for somebody with similar interests. Oh, and no Trumpers! I actually put that in there, because prior to meeting my girlfriend Rita, I went on a date with a woman who was very sweet, but she said she prayed for Trump every morning. Really. It was a turn-off. After that, I tried talking at first with someone to make it a little bit more comfortable for when we did meet in person. But it hasn’t been all bad — Rita and I are about to celebrate our two-year anniversary.
I don’t tell people what to do in general, but if a friend is struggling, I say, you know, online dating worked for me. And there’s always a chance you meet a good friend.
“As you get older, it’s much harder to meet people”
Rita, 67, Long Island, New York
The night I met Bruce, I had gone on a date with another man who sounded very athletic, and he was a professor, too. I thought, “This sounds like an interesting person!” Well, the minute I met him, I was like, “No, no, no.” He was very forward, and it made me uncomfortable. So I told him I was getting tired, even though it was only 6:30 pm. I got in my car and remembered that I had spoken to Bruce earlier in the week, so I called him and said, “What are you doing?” I just had to shake that other guy from my psyche. Bruce and I met up, and it was a completely different experience. We just felt comfortable.
I decided to do online dating because my husbands kept dying. I’ve had a really bad run. My first husband died when I was 40, and I had just started having children with him. And then I met somebody 10 years later, and then he died in 18 months. And then I did finally remarry somebody else. And then he died about, I think this is nine years now.
As you get older, it’s much harder to meet people. I always had luck just running into people — I met my second husband at a record shop — but after he died, I was lonely for sure. I had a full life otherwise, but as a widow, my kids were in school and all the other parents were double-dating and going out with each other, and they just didn’t ask me to come.
So what do you do? You look for somebody that’s really compatible and hope that they like to do the same things you do. But unlike meeting someone in your 20s, when you meet somebody in their 60s, they’re coming in with a whole set of experiences and likes. And sometimes it’s pretty hard to embrace it. One guy called me up and he said, “Listen, I love to sail, and my friends and I are going out on a weekend adventure, are you up for it?” Like, what do you think, I’m nuts?! Risk my life? I couldn’t get over it, but I guess that’s just the way he was!
“I really would like a younger man in his 70s because too many men in their 80s have just let themselves go”
Elaine, 82, Spring Lake, Michigan
I’ve been widowed now five years since my second husband passed away. I know I don’t want to get married again, and maybe this sounds horrible, but I really just want to have a man in my life. Both of my husbands were very loving and affectionate men, and I miss that horribly.
For my dating profile, I have a girlfriend that helps me get hooked up on a site and then she takes my pictures and tells me, you know, we’ll put that in there and put that in there. I know a lot of women who are younger than me, and in my mind, they look older than me because I keep myself current. I’m not dead yet! And so I really would like a younger man in his 70s because too many men in their 80s have just let themselves go. You can’t believe some of the, um, some of the pictures that come up on my accounts, and I just think, “Really?” One time I went on a lunch date, I’m sitting there waiting for him, and pretty soon I hear this click, click, click. I glance up and here comes this man with a cane! I had no idea.
Online dating during the pandemic can be frustrating because I’m more of a face-to-face person. I don’t want to talk on the phone for a long time because you can’t see the other person’s expressions. And I’m not quite into the Zoom thing yet, so I would be very willing to, you know, meet for a lunch or glass of wine or whatever, even right now.
In the very beginning, after their father passed away, my children didn’t like the idea of me having anybody in my life. But I explained to them, “You don’t understand what it’s like to be alone and not having that partner.” And now I just tease them about it. This is who I am. So they just roll their eyes and think, “Oh, mother.”
“I know what I want, and what I don’t want”
Kathee, 65, Grand Haven, Michigan
I actually started online dating way back in 2008. I was getting divorced, and so I was on Match. I’ve also been on eHarmony, and that didn’t work out well. I found out that there’s a lot of scamming going on on these websites. That why I stopped eHarmony. This one guy was getting pushy and then he disappeared completely. It was because they kicked him off the site! That’s why I started using Plenty of Fish.
The older you get, the pickier you become. I have a boyfriend now, but when I was online dating, I was looking for someone in my own age category who had a job or was retired — not anyone who needed someone to put a roof over their head. I wanted someone who was able to take care of themselves. At this age, you end up maybe living with someone versus marrying them just because of all the money that gets involved and gets tangled up, like 401(k)s and Social Security. If the guy I’m dating now doesn’t work out, I don’t know if I’d do it again, because as men get older, they want someone to just take care of them.
I remember even my mom was a widow at 70 and she joined a golf group. She gets there and it’s mostly men in their 70s, and she goes “Oh, this one’s got this pain, and this one’s got this ache. I’ve done my deal with having a sick husband and I am not doing it again.” I just know myself better now, and I know what I want, and what I don’t want.