The Dating Game: Singles in their 50s, 60s face challenges

Singles in their 50s, 60s face unique dating challenges, experts say.
by Paula Burkes Modified: December 16, 2013 at 1:00 pm •  Published: December 16, 2013
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When she met her husband 20 years ago, Rhonda Hollis surmised, on the first day she knew him, that he was an honest man.

In the conversation he struck up with her at a southeast Oklahoma City cafeteria, he mentioned he liked horses and horse trailers. Then, on their way to their respective cars, a shiny new horse trailer pulled in front of them.

“His head spun around like he'd just seen a swimsuit model,” Hollis said. “That's when I realized he was as honest as the day is long.”

These days, Hollis, 58 — who sadly was widowed 11/2 years into her marriage — finds it difficult to find an honest man. She said she's been disappointed with the online dating services she's tried.

“These guys will say and do about anything,” Hollis said. She's had dates who've posted high school photographs on their online profiles and then shown up with double chins, or ex-smokers who've wheezed through their dinner, she said.

“All that most are looking for is sex, a housekeeper or a nursemaid,” she said. “They either want to grab you or your money.”

E-dating blunders by boomers

AARP dating expert Ken Solin, 68, of the San Francisco Bay Area, said online dating is a good, if not the best, option for people older than 50.

“The problem is boomers tend to make several mistakes,” he said. “Many send emails to too many and respond to everybody, when they should be much more circumspect. It's also a huge mistake to be too specific. Let go of your failed fantasy typecast of a short blonde with big breasts or a man who's 5-foot-10 or taller with black hair, blue eyes and in shape.”

Solin said his sweetheart of one year — whom he met through the free site OkCupid — always dated real tall guys before him.

“We both laughed about how we found the other attractive, but not in a way we'd ever experienced before,” he said.

Most importantly, boomers should seek partners with common interests and values, Solin said.

“You need to be on the same page, and both have the emotional intelligence and capability of resolving problems, including talking about your feelings versus your thoughts,” he said.

Securing the happiness and well-being of companionship is a top priority among many single Americans 50 and older and an important part of living a rich, full and enjoyable life at 50 plus, said Craig Davis, AARP Oklahoma associate state director.

The most popular dates among people over 50, he said, are food-related: trying a new restaurant or seeking out the best chocolate cake in town. Listening to live music and volunteering also are big, he said.

To help its boomers, AARP in February launched AARP Dating (dating.aarp.org). Members, including about 50,000 Oklahomans who are single and in their 50s and 60s, can get discounts and free trials.

Offline dating alternatives

Meanwhile, Ambiance Matchmaking in Oklahoma City and Tulsa offers boomers, and professionals of all ages, an alternative to Internet dating.

“There's a growing number of fake profiles on Match.com, and people need to be more careful,” matchmaker Leslie Wardman said. “You don't know who you're talking to (online).”

Her offline dating service, which requires a significant financial investment, operates with the confidentiality of a law firm, Wardman said.


by Paula Burkes
Reporter
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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AT A GLANCE

Baby boomer dating tips

• Be specific about your interests in online dating profiles. Don't just say you're “adventurous”; tell a story about your adventures.

• Be selective in who you communicate with. Finding your match isn't a numbers game; it's about finding someone with shared interests and values.

• Suggest dates that exemplify your likes, such as “How about spending $5 on a jukebox in a dive bar.”

• Call versus sending a text; it's more personal.

• Choose busy, daytime cafes for first dates. Meet for coffee — not lunch or dinner — so you can leave quickly if there's no interest.

• On early dates: listen more than you speak.

• Generally, men should offer their phone numbers first. If not, women should request them.

• Avoid sharing personal email addresses.

• Don't become sexual too quickly. The relaxed sexual attitudes of the '60s and '70s, including the expectation for strangers to sleep together on their first dates, is demeaning for boomer women, especially.

• Trust your gut.

SOURCE: aarp.org/dating.

5 questions to gauge mutual, long-term compatibility

• Have you ever been in therapy, attended a relationship workshop or read any books about relationships? Without prior interest in emotional awareness and growth, most likely will lack the skills to work through issues.

• Do you have a job or other means of income? Supporting someone isn't a good start.

• Do you have same-sex friends? A boomer without them typically has trust issues that get in the way of intimacy. You also may become his or her universe, which is an impossible burden to carry.

• What spiritual or moral beliefs guide your life? Sharing basic values is essential.

• What did you learn from your last relationship? A boomer who hasn't learned that it's OK to admit fault and take some responsibility will blame you for any problems that arise.

SOURCE: AARP dating expert Ken Solin

By the numbers

17 million

Number of unmarried U.S. residents 65 and older in 2012. These seniors made up 16 percent of all unmarried people 18 and older.

Source: America's Families and Living Arrangements: 2012

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