Recent studies have shown that adults live happier and longer lives when in a relationship, and getting older doesn’t lessen our interest in having a nurturing, loving partner, and that could mean senior dating. “Romantic relationships are important to people at all ages,” says psychologist Terri Orbuch, PhD, “The Love Doctor,” who has studied the romance, relationship, marriage and divorce patterns of thousands of individuals nationwide for over 20 years and is an internationally known research scientist at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan and a professor at Oakland University. “But as we get older and our physical and psychology wellbeing and health become more important, romantic relationships become more significant because they contribute to better health. For example, older people with romantic relationships have better immune systems, lower rates of cancer and respiratory diseases, less mental illness and fewer migraines. These romantic relationships provide people with the needed social support, assistance, touch, intimacy and closeness they need as they get older. Plus, they provide people with someone to lean on in times of trouble,” explains Dr. Orbuch, the author of five relationship books, including Five Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great.
“When we are young, I think people want passionate love—the love of physical arousal and lust,” she continues. “This type of love is built on newness, fantasy and arousal. But as we get older, we recognize that this type of love is important, but it isn’t the love that keeps relationships together, nor does it help us through the ups and downs of life. Instead, it is companionate love—the love of friendship and support (communication and trust)—that we want and seek. As we get older, we recognize that companionate love is what really helps us and is the love that binds relationships together over time.”
Those not currently in a relationship know that meeting people gets progressively harder, and many are turning to senior online dating, which is now more acceptable to people of all ages—so much so PeopleMedia has created an online dating website just for older adults, SeniorPeopleMeet.com. Nearly 40 percent of members of SeniorPeopleMeet.com are over the age of 60, says Josh Meyers, CEO of PeopleMedia, with 27 percent between the ages of 61 and 70. “We created SeniorPeopleMeet.com to fulfill our vision of ‘Creating relationships. Connecting Lives’ by developing communities that focus on critical relationship factors. SeniorPeopleMeet.com is a community focused on delivering an online dating solution that is uniquely focused on 50+ singles, a large and growing segment within online dating and social media.” SeniorPeopleMeet.com members lead vital, varied lives. “They enjoy travel, fitness, cooking, dining out, church activities and the arts,” adds Meyers. And they want to meet people who share those interests.
If you’re new to senior online dating, you might be wondering how to begin. Dr. Orbuch, who is a relationship consultant to SeniorPeopleMeet.com, offers this advice:
What to disclose about yourself on the dating site. “First and foremost, you want to always be completely honest in your profile and photo. You don’t want to lie about your age, your background or your personality,” suggests Dr. Orbuch. “Not everyone will take this advice, but you don’t want to start a relationship on a lie, and somewhere down the road, others will know that you aren’t what you say you are (or you don’t look like your photo). After that, you want to disclose general things about you—your age, your religion, if you have children, your height/weight, your general interests, your background and the underlying values or principles that characterize you. Think about it this way: If someone asked you to describe yourself, what would you tell them? What phrases or qualities best describe you? Those are the right things to disclose in your profile. You don’t need to say everything about you in your profile. If someone likes what they see in your profile, they will ask you questions and try to get to know the rest of you. Once contact is made, the golden rule is that you want to disclose gradually over time. I think the biggest mistake people make is to disclose everything or give too much information early in the process. Sharing personal details like why your marriage didn’t work or your children’s problems is okay after you’ve spent time together, but it might set off warning bells if revealed prematurely. If this person is right for you, there’ll be plenty of time to download every last detail in the future.”
Managing your expectations. “There is someone out there for each person, and you are never too old or it is never too late to find a romantic other. My answers are not different based on whether you are over 60 or 70+. But, there are three types of people who become members of online dating sites like SeniorPeopleMeet.com,” says Dr. Orbuch:
- Seniors who have experienced the loss of a loved one. People over 60 and 70+ are likely to fall into this first category. They were married for many years, 30, 40 or 50 years. Dr. Orbuch suggests you approach dating this way: 1) changing your expectations—focus simply on looking for someone to share common interests and activities with; 2) you can’t expect to have the same connection with someone online (a few email chats) that you had with your departed loved one (many years); 3) no one you meet will ever replace your departed loved one, though you can have an enjoyable relationship.
- Seniors who have experienced a divorce. First, be sure you are coping with the divorce, and let go of negative emotions to move forward. Don’t be in a rush to introduce other family members (such as adult children) to new romantic others; let situations evolve.
- Seniors who have not had a romantic relationship for a long time. Know that it is never to late to find that someone special, says Dr. Orbuch, and that there are many reasons people enter the dating pool, whether online or not. Some join to find a marriage partner, others want to find a companion or just someone to be friends with. It’s just as common for some people not to want a marriage partner, and that’s fine.
How to protect yourself—from your heart to your identity. There are con artists or just people who might take advantage of someone else on all dating sites. “I also would argue that these people are everywhere—senior centers, blind dates or community groups,” says Dr. Orbuch. They are not just confined to dating sites. Nonetheless, here are some safety tips and how-to pointers for seniors from Dr. Orbuch:
- Don’t take rejections personally. With the wonderfully large pool of potential dates available online, people have the opportunity to be very discriminating and probably won’t or can’t respond to every person who reaches out with an “I’m Interested” message. That applies to you, too. Keep your options open and explore a wide variety of singles out there because that special one might be just one click away. Feel free to say “no” to anyone who just doesn’t feel like a good fit for you. You both will go on to find a better match.
- Most importantly, don’t rush things. Research has shown that online relationships develop faster than usual, but I recommend taking it a little slower. Before you meet in person, give it at least a week of online getting-to-know-you first. And move from online to the phone before a face-to-face get together. A live conversation can help you know whether an in-person date is worth exploring. By taking it slow, you are more likely to see inconsistencies in their behaviors and actions.
- When it’s time to give your phone number, go with your cell number instead of your home or work number. Should it be necessary, it’s much less problematic to change your cell number.
- Next, pick a public, busy spot for a first in-person meeting, such as a coffee house or a mall, and use your own transportation to get there and back. Don’t forget to tell a friend where you’re going, what time and your date’s name. You can even have a friend drop you off and pick you up from this first in-person meeting.
- Don’t disclose where you live (specifically) or your address until after a few in-person meetings.
For more relationship advice, visit Dr. Orbuch’s site, drterrithelovedoctor.com.