New Yorker Lorri Eskenazi, 60, has one of those dating stories that show why you should never give up. Married for 25 years, divorced for the past six, she turned to the dating app Bumble—she liked that Bumble has women reach out to men for dates. And at first, she enjoyed all the interest from the men who swiped her profile as a match. “It was fun at the beginning,” she says. “It was almost like a game, and it was really cool to have access to all these people.”
Then it became more like a chore. The same men kept popping up. She had a few “ghost” her—that is, the man would disappear without a word. But she had noticed that one of the men whose profile she kept seeing was a friend from her teenage years in Brooklyn. She reached out to him on social media, asking if he would be interested in a get-together as friends. And now they have a bicoastal relationship.
At any age, dating is full of contradictions. It can boost your ego and deflate it. It can be fun and dismal. And dating as an older adult can be both easier and more difficult than it is for younger adults.
Furthermore, you’re not alone. The divorce rate for adults over the age of 50 has doubled over the past 25 years, according to the Pew Research Center. And, says Christina Pierpaoli Parker, a PhD student in clinical psychology specializing in geropsychology, an analysis of widowers ages 65 and older found that 18 months after the death of a spouse, 37% of men and 15% of women wanted to date. If you are dipping back into the dating scene, here are some good tips for dating when older.
Ignore judgment. Getting back into dating for some can be exciting, but it can also provoke feelings of shame, judgment and guilt, especially if you are widowed, Pierpaoli Parker says. Friends may tell you that you’re moving too fast (or slow) and adult children may be resentful. But it’s important to remember, “there’s no right or wrong time to get into dating,” she adds.
Digital dating isn’t that scary. A Pew Research Center survey found that the number of 55- to 64-year-olds using online dating nearly doubled, from 6% in 2013 to 12% in 2015. “Many singles who have come to me have never tried online dating,” says Julie Spira, founder of Cyber-Dating Expert. “But since their friends are not fixing them up, they have to take matters into their own hands.”
Don’t be ageist. Both men and women frequently want to date people 5 to 10 years younger than themselves, Spira says. But get over your own ageist ideas, and widen your pool, she says. After all, a 70-year-old can be sharper and more fit than someone 20 years younger.
Be open—but not too open. Be very aware that there are scammers, and even the most astute can be taken in. If somebody seems too good to be true, he or she usually is. Search online before committing. “I found one prospect’s ‘real’ profile with a picture of his girlfriend,” says Janie Jurkovich, author of the self-published book Single and Sixty (available on Amazon.com, $16).
Sex, sex, sex. The issues may change, but talking about sex can feel just as scary at 60 as it was at 20. Never feel coerced or manipulated. “Becoming intimate is a choice, not a requirement,” Jurkovich says.
Safe sex is still important. Older adults account for an increasing proportion of sexually transmitted diseases, Pierpaoli Parker says. The Centers for Disease Control data shows that between 2010 and 2014, adults over 65 saw a nearly 52% jump in chlamydia infections, for instance.
Leave the drama behind. “Everyone has baggage—that builds the character we have,” Spira says. But you don’t need to unpack all that baggage right away. “Bring the best version of yourself to the date. Don’t talk about medical problems right away. Don’t talk about your divorce or your ex not paying spousal support.”
Check in with how you feel, Pierpaoli Parker says. “One simple question to ask yourself when you’re with someone: Do I feel I have to perform—is it draining? Or do I feel energized and connected?”
Alina Tugend is a long-time journalist who has worked in Southern California, Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., London and New York. From 2005 to 2015, she wrote the biweekly Shortcuts column for The New York Times business section, which received the Best in Business Award for personal finance by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including The Times, The Atlantic, O, the Oprah Magazine, Family Circle and Inc. magazine. In 2011, Riverhead published Tugend's first book, Better by Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong.
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