Over-50s dat­ing site tack­les lone­li­ness

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LIFE - By Lee Mannion Thomson Reuters Foun­da­tion

Mar­cie Rogo didn’t see her­self as a match­maker when she started a web­site to help lonely over-50s find com­pan­ion­ship, af­ter watch­ing res­i­dents in the nurs­ing home where she worked sit alone in their rooms with iPads.

But love, sex and ro­mance were also im­por­tant for the el­derly peo­ple us­ing her site, Stitch.

“Users kept ask­ing me: ‘Can’t you just list the mar­i­tal sta­tus?’” Rogo said at the So­cial Cap­i­tal Mar­kets con­fer­ence, which brings to­gether busi­nesses and in­vestors seek­ing to have a pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal or so­cial im­pact.

Lone­li­ness is a se­ri­ous med­i­cal prob­lem for many older adults; re­search links it to de­clines in phys­i­cal and men­tal health as well as pre­ma­ture death.

Rogo was ini­tially re­sis­tant as she knew dat­ing ser­vices mar­keted at older peo­ple al­ready ex­isted. But peo­ple she spoke to told her they felt vul­ner­a­ble us­ing those sites.

“They don’t like it be­cause they get a lot of gold dig­gers, pros­ti­tutes, mail or­der brides,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foun­da­tion at the con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco, where Stitch is also based. “One user told me the site they were us­ing felt like the red light dis­trict.”

To safe­guard against this, 3-yearold Stitch asks all its mem­bers to go through a ver­i­fi­ca­tion process to en­sure they are over 50.

As with other sites, mem­bers can post pho­tos, tag their in­ter­ests and look at other peo­ple’s pro­files.

When two peo­ple ex­press an in­ter­est in each other, they get a mes­sage say­ing ‘It’s a stitch’ and can com­mu­ni­cate with each other.

Rogo, who is in her early 30s, says she is un­com­fort­able when peo­ple de­scribe 3-year-old Stitch as a dat­ing site.

Her fo­cus is on the num­ber of con­nec­tions made and on the num­ber of times peo­ple get out of the house to at­tend group ac­tiv­i­ties it of­fers.

Stitch signed up 5,000 mem­bers in its first year and now has 100,000 mem­bers around the world, with the big­gest hubs be­ing Lon­don, New York and Syd­ney.

Rogo says one rea­son her startup has grown so fast is be­cause of its “hip and cool” brand­ing, which avoids the usual as­so­ci­a­tions mar­keters use when mak­ing pitches to el­derly peo­ple.

“Peo­ple treat old peo­ple like they’re this weird species; they’re just older ver­sions of us,” she said, adding that she plans to in­tro­duce a travel ser­vice, and maybe a cruise line.

A screen shot of Stitch over-50s dat­ing site

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lebanon

© PressReader. All rights reserved.