MIND THE GAP

When it comes to find­ing love on­line, older men are dis­cov­er­ing the gen­er­a­tion gap is too big to bridge, writes Rosa Sil­ver­man

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When it comes to find­ing love on­line, older men are dis­cov­er­ing the gen­er­a­tion gap is too big to bridge, writes Rosa Sil­ver­man

The course of true love never did run smooth — and es­pe­cially not for men, it seems. New re­search sug­gests that, when it comes to the min­i­mum and max­i­mum ages that men and women con­sider ac­cept­able for a new sex­ual part­ner, women tend to opt for some­one of sim­i­lar ma­tu­rity; men, how­ever, are less will­ing to re­strict them­selves. So as a man grows older, while the up­per age limit of his prospec­tive part­ners rises, his lower limit hardly changes. And this could be a prob­lem — for him, at least.

While the likes of Mick Jag­ger, Hugh Grant and Leonardo DiCaprio ap­pear to have lit­tle trou­ble at­tract­ing younger women, these men may well be the ex­cep­tion, rather than the rule: the study of more than 2500 peo­ple by re­searchers at Abo Akademi Univer­sity in Fin­land sug­gested that older men in­ter­ested in younger women might be con­demned to a life of un­re­quited love.

“Their po­ten­tial in­ter­est in younger women is not likely [to be] con­verted into sex­ual ac­tiv­ity,” the au­thors write del­i­cately.

How­ever, in the same way that youth fades, so too does a mid­dle-aged man’s im­pres­sion of his at­trac­tive­ness to women young enough to be his daugh­ter. As a man hits his 50s he is more

likely to con­sider a woman of his own vin­tage wor­thy of pur­suit.

It is a con­clu­sion that Ed, 46, ar­rived at a few years early — that, hav­ing tried for some time, dat­ing younger women was a non-starter. Hav­ing sep­a­rated from the mother of his two teenage sons in his mid-40s, the IT man­ager was keen to get back on to the dat­ing scene. He was, how­ever, un­pre­pared for what he found there.

“Af­ter a 20-year re­la­tion­ship, I be­gan on­line dat­ing,” he says. “I was talk­ing to girls in their 20s be­cause those were the ones I felt most at­tracted to. But none seemed in­ter­ested. All they wanted to do was send me tit­il­lat­ing pic­tures of them­selves. When I tried to take things fur­ther, they ‘ghosted’ me. I hadn’t ex­pected them to be so im­ma­ture.”

Trial and er­ror even­tu­ally taught Ed that women his own age were a bet­ter bet.

For other older men, it’s the tech­nol­ogy that throws them. Dat­ing a “dig­i­tal na­tive” — part of the gen­er­a­tion born or brought up with dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy — when you are any­thing but, is no easy propo­si­tion.

Andy, 38, hinted at just this: “I’m a bit old-school. I pre­fer get­ting to know some­one, as op­posed to the hu­man Ar­gos cat­a­logue of swip­ing left and right.”

Jonathan, 68, di­vorced, has cho­sen a dif­fer­ent route, be­com­ing a client of dat­ing agency Draw­ing Down the Moon in­stead of turn­ing to Tin­der. But with four adult daugh­ters — and a sen­si­ble ap­proach to the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of re­la­tion­ships — he has his sights set on a woman his own age.

“If you are with some­one 20 years younger, they’ve prob­a­bly got a dif­fer­ent life ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says. “When you get to a cer­tain age, you start to creak at the seams. If you’re dat­ing some­one younger, there may well be a mis­match in your pace of life.”

Ac­cord­ing to Gil­lian McCal­lum, CEO of Draw­ing Down the Moon, Jonathan’s view is typ­i­cal of the ap­proach her clients take to dat­ing. “The men might be at­tracted to younger women, but when they want a re­la­tion­ship, they want it with an­other adult,” she says. “Men are not com­ing to us and ask­ing for a much younger model.”

Find­ing the right age match is not the only chal­lenge that men on to­day’s fast-paced, of­ten cut-throat dat­ing scene must con­tend with, how­ever. Many men seem to strug­gle when it comes to emo­tional in­ti­macy. The cul­tural ex­pec­ta­tion that men don’t share their feel­ings can make this in­cred­i­bly tough.

Andy, who grew up in a post-in­dus­trial com­mu­nity where men tra­di­tion­ally hide their emo­tions, agrees. “As a male of my gen­er­a­tion, you don’t have the tools; you don’t want to ad­mit to peo­ple you’re suf­fer­ing,” he says.

Out­wardly chip­per, he sup­pressed his de­pres­sion for years be­fore speak­ing out.

“I didn’t talk to any­one. That’s not some­thing you do. I have a way of act­ing like ev­ery­thing’s fine, but one day I talked to two of my best mates in the pub. I was the loneli­est per­son in that crowded room. I built up to it and had a few drinks, then we spoke for about 20 sec­onds and they said: ‘Come on, mate, have an­other drink,’ so we got an­other beer and watched the foot­ball.”

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