Dating in the later years
Welcome to the second of our five-part series exploring aspects of senior life. In part two, Jenn Ripley spotlights online dating for seniors.
"Looking for a tall man. 85-90 years old... needs to have a good mood. But other than that I'm pretty open," says the spritely white-haired woman recently profiled on the popular blog Humans of New York. Her quest for companionship received 10,000 Facebook comments. While some commenters expressed surprise by her openness, looking for love later in life is not uncommon at all.
Love and companionship are not just desirable, they are essential to quality of life especially as we age. "People in happy relationships are healthier as they age", says Dr. Liesl Gambold, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Dalhousie University.
Dr. Gambold points out that as we age, mental health issues such as depression, loneliness and apathy can creep up more often, especially for those living alone. Physical health can become neglected as well if there is no one to be accountable to or to motivate us to take care of ourselves. Having a partner and a positive relationship in our later years can improve our mental and physical health by providing companionship and incentive towards self care.
Today, there is nothing stopping people from pursuing relationships. As Dr. Gambold points out, Baby Boomers are renovating every stage of life they move through including retirement.
When it comes to dating later in life, Boomers are taking the initiative. From Gambold's perspective, retirees today have a refreshing and straightforward approach to relationships. They are also better educated, more financially stable, and can expect a longer life expectancy than ever before. This allows more opportunities for seniors to enjoy retirement - travelling, adventuring, and pursuing interests that had perhaps been put on hold.
"They are more comfortable with who they are and are not as willing to be in a bad relationship,” explains Gambold.
Despite the mental and physical benefits of close personal relationships, seeking out companionship in small communities isn’t always straightforward. Histories are complicated and interwoven and very little is private. We all know the stories of lifelong friends or neighbours whose history became the basis for a love story. But that doesn't happen to everyone.
Today though, dating is no longer restricted to the people in your community. The advent of the Internet opened up new possibilities for finding a compatible companion. Computer match-making has been around since 1964. Using the combined power of algorithms, computers and information highway, Match. com launched its online service in 1995. It may seem ironic that a mathematical approach to matching like-minded individuals has connected millions of people who might otherwise be alone.
For the online dating world, seniors are the fastest growing demographic. In response, creators of online dating sites have designed simple, easily navigable site with fewer distractions. Notably, these sites provide options for matches other than romantic relationships and now help match people with pen pals, platonic companions, activity partners and fellow travelers.
Seniormatch.com is an established site focusing on seniors. Other sites tailored to seniors include Seniorpeoplemeet.com and Ourtime.com. Two of the original dating sites, Match. ca and eharmony.ca, offer the option to narrow your search based on age.
Navigating the field of online dating sites can be daunting. Websites such as top10datingsites.ca provide reviews for online dating sites and can be a helpful place to start. Sites are compared based on membership costs, privacy settings, and the matching system used. Many sites offer free trials and this can be a great way to try various formats to find the best fit.
As with all Internet usage, it’s important to follow Internet safety protocols such as ensuring the website is verified and secured. Baddeck Library’s Senior Technology Interns are available to assist seniors entering the world of online dating. Please call Madison or Natasha at 902295-2055 for one-on-one help with all your computer and Internet technology questions.