Online and Over 50: Dating for the Dated
Online dating isn’t just for the young. In fact, it’s not even mostly for the young.
It might come as a shock to Twitter-happy tweens, but the Web itself is a mere youth: if it were a person, it would just be graduating high school about now. Yet, in a new twist on the old saw that youth is wasted on the young, it’s older folks who are making the best use of the Web when it comes to searching for that special someone.
According to a survey conducted in early 2006, the odds an adult 40 - 58 in a relationship met his or her partner through an online dating service were just 1 in 33.33. For those 59 and older, they stood at an even slimmer 1 in 100. But this situation appears to have changed. Match.com, one of the leading online dating services, reports that 1 in 5 of its members is 50 or older—and that demographic is the site’s fastest growing segment.
A 2009 survey of adults in the UK who had dated in the past year found that the over-55’s were the most active online daters: 1 in 1.61 (62%) of them had joined a dating site, almost three times the rate of 18 - 24-year-olds. These mature singles had an average of 8.2 Internet dates and met an average of 2.4 sexual partners online.
Aligned with this trend, a 2010 US study of newlywed couples found that those who’d met online tended to be older, and less likely to be in a first marriage, than those who’d met in a more traditional way.
One might have expected the opposite—that younger people, more comfortable with technology and the Internet, would be the more active (and successful) online daters. But young people typically have more active real-world social lives, and hence more opportunities to meet people in the flesh. Older singles, by contrast, are more likely to have children, time-consuming careers—and an understandable aversion to the loud, youth-oriented bar and club scene. And as time goes by, older people get more accustomed to using the Internet.
Perhaps the greatest dating challenges await the retired. Today’s seniors are less likely than in the past to be able to count on their grown children to take them in and care for them if and when that time comes, so many single seniors are highly motivated to find a companion. But they have relatively limited opportunities to meet eligible singles. As one retiree active in online dating put it, either you move to an assisted living community with a built-in social scene, a proposition which is often quite costly, you take up bridge, or you learn how to post your profile on the Internet.
Given these choices, surfing for love and companionship seems mighty attractive.