By Wayne Schutsky
Frank Sinatra sang it best when he crooned, “Love isn’t just for the young…” As the population ages and average life expectancies continue to rise, more and more seniors are searching for new love in their golden years.
In fact, information from Pew Research Center shows that remarriage among divorced and widowed individuals over 55 is on the rise. As of 2013, 57 percent of previously married people over the age of 55 chose to remarry. That is an increase of 15 percent since 1960.
Even seniors who are not interested in marriage are finding companionship. Another Pew study found the number of seniors cohabitating with a partner is on the rise. In 2016, people over the age of 50 represented about 23 percent of all cohabiters in the U.S., according to the study.
Before seniors can broach the subject of marriage or living together, though, they have to find that partner. And dating can be intimidating, especially for seniors who have not waded into the dating pool in a while.
Whether they are considering dating following a separation or recovering from the loss of a spouse, the first thing prospective daters over 50 need to do before putting themselves back out there is ensure they are ready for the rigors of a new relationship.
“A lot of people say they are ready, but they aren’t,” Dr. Pepper Schwartz says. Schwartz is a professor of sociology at University of Washington and the author of Dating After 50 for Dummies, a part of the “For Dummies” series of instructional books.
Schwartz says a good indicator of readiness is that those considering dating no longer have an extreme emotional reaction to old relationships. While previous relationships will likely always hold a special place in their hearts, daters need to allow enough time to pass so they can enter into new relationships with a clear mind.
Seniors new to the dating scene should also put in some legwork prior to the date itself. Schwartz suggests enlisting trusted friends or family members to consult on things like hair and clothes.
And don’t forget the talking points. Anyone venturing out on a first date needs to know what is and is not appropriate to talk about. “Health information is not relevant on a first date,” Schwartz says.
For many, medical issues are a fact of life. However, they are not the best topic for a first date. Rather, you should find out if you are a match with someone before sharing some of the more intimate details of your health history.
For those that want to begin dating but don’t know where to start, there are plenty of options.
Schwartz suggests joining voluntary groups like political campaigns or community groups that will allow you to meet new people outside of your typical social circle. “Do something you haven‘t done before, because if you have done it before and not met anyone, then it is probably not the right thing to do,” Schwartz says.
Meetup.com is a good resource for seniors looking for new activities. A search for seniors groups in the Phoenix metro area on the site returns more than 60 results for groups around the Valley, ranging from a Scottsdale wine and happy hour club to a travel group in Ahwatukee.
The Lovin’ Life After 50 classifieds page is another good resource. It often features short ads from single seniors throughout the Valley looking for companionship.
While the world of apps and online dating may appear designed for the younger generation, there are plenty of options available for users over 50 as well.
Schwartz actually thinks online dating is the best option for older daters, because it gives them access to a large population of potential partners. “There is no place else where you are going to find that many single older people, period,” she says. “You are playing a game of numbers.”
Websites like Senior Friend Finder, Silver Singles and OurTime are geared toward older audiences.
However, Schwartz says that singles over 50 should also try out traditional dating sites like Match.com and eHarmony, because they also have large user populations in the over-50 demographic.
She also suggests users try fee-based sites in order to ensure other users are on the up and up. “When you go to paid sites – which I recommend – if someone is a bad actor, you can report it and they get kicked off,” Schwartz says.
She also notes that when a site has users’ credit cards on file, it tends to weed out questionable characters.
Despite all of these resources, it could take some time to find that special someone.
“Don’t get discouraged if it takes a while,” Schwartz says, noting that if several months go by without any luck, it may be a good idea to change your approach or put in some extra effort.
Schwartz adds: “You have to really take it seriously and treat it like a job.”