By his late sixties, Ken Solin was in a rut. He had been dating on and off for about 10 years following a divorce, and he realized he was choosing the same kind of person repeatedly. So he reached out on an online dating site to a woman far different than his usual type-and they clicked. That was five years ago. Solin, now 72, and his partner just moved in together.
Finding romance at any stage of life can be complicated, but older singles face additional hurdles. Some, like Solin, are looking for love after divorce, or they are widowed after a long marriage. They often have to figure out online dating for the first time, from posting a profile picture to setting up coffee dates.
Their experiences are mostly without precedent, given that previous generations didn't enjoy the longer life expectancies that allow late-in-life dating. And even with older baby boomers changing the nature of the senior dating scene, senior romances and sexuality are still little-understood topics, says Pepper Schwartz, a University of Washington sociology professor and AARP's relationships expert.
"There's a lot of ageism about romance and sex," says Schwartz. "You'd almost think that everybody died at age 70 for the lack of conversation about it." But Americans widowed in their fifties or sixties could live into their eighties or nineties. A lot of people say they don't want to be single for that long. "They still have a need for romance and love," Schwartz says.
Looking for Love at Retirement Age
One advantage for older daters: The dating pool is growing. The divorce rate among adults ages 50 and older has roughly doubled since the 1990s, according to the Pew Research Center. In addition, more seniors are going online to look for love; the share of 55- to 64-year-olds who use online dating services doubled, from 6% in 2013 to 12% in 2015, Pew found.
There's also less of a stigma around elderly romance-you can enlist an adult child as your wingman, to get you online or to meet people, says Schwartz.
To succeed as you begin dating again, be deliberate about your search, says Marge Coffey, 73, a Chevy Chase, Md., therapist who counsels single seniors and who met her partner online. Decide this is going to be your part-time job for the next few months, she says.
If you're going online, enlist supportive friends to help. Then start with your profile picture, Coffey says. Hiring a professional photographer could cost between $300 and $700, but professionally shot photos could help create the right first impression. "You have to get your foot in the door," says Coffey. When writing your profile, avoid cliched phrases that age you, such as describing how you enjoy long walks on the beach.
Or, if online dating seems daunting, look for new social outlets. Join a neighborhood investment club, or take classes at a museum. "You have to give yourself the opening to be doing new things and meeting new people," Schwartz says.
If you connect with someone, you'll still have some challenges. If being in an intimate relationship is important to you, make that clear after a few dates, Coffey says. Otherwise you might feel like you wasted time with a potential partner who didn't have the same interest. If a date seems overly curious in your finances, consider it a huge red flag and cut things off. And make sure "you have your armor on" to tolerate dates that disappear even after you thought things were going well.
If you aren't having much luck, try a dating coach. Be sure to ask for references and check backgrounds carefully; fees will vary. Solin serves as a senior dating coach and charges about $125 an hour.