Seniors Use Online Dating in Bigger Numbers
Monday, February 20, 2012
Two Bowling Green State University professors of gerontology have started research about online dating in later life. A shortage of data about older adults and the online dating world spurred Dr. Wendy K. Watson and Dr. Charlie Stelle to look into the phenomenon.
Meanwhile, Lynn McNicoll, MD, division of geriatrics, Rhode Island Hospital, is not surprised about the uptick in online activity for the older set. "This phenomenon of online dating among seniors is more prominent among the baby boomer generation for two reasons," Dr. McNicoll said. "One, this generation is more familiar with computers; and two, they are less willing to live the rest of their lives alone. Computer use is increasing among older persons especially with the use of computer tablets. There is even a book 'IPad for Seniors for Dummies'.
The need to find new partners
Doctor McNicoll points out that older persons can be widowed or divorced at a relatively young age and live a long time single. More and more, she adds, older persons are recognizing that widowhood or divorce do not signify the end to relationships and intimacy. "Online dating is another means of meeting new people and developing new relationships," she says. "Women may benefit from this more because there tend to be fewer older men and fewer still who are single. As Americans are living longer and healthier there is no reason not to take advantage of this service."
Meanwhile, the team at Bowling Green is finding that older adults appear to market themselves differently on online dating sites than younger adults. Gone is the focus on appearance and status. They believe the senior population appears to be more interested in honest self-representation and being compatible rather than discussing areas such as sexual prowess and nightlife.
They found traditional online coding terms used to describe younger generations seem to “miss some key elements relevant for ads placed by older adults,” according to their initial findings presented recently during the Gerontological Society of America’s international conference.
Attractions include compatability, companionship
Watson and Stelle suggest online sites geared at those over 60 might want to consider adding personal characteristics such as affection, intelligence, independence, purpose and goals, religion and spirituality, political beliefs, health and status. Also missing on the young adult online sites were lifestyle categories such as compatibility and companionship, which are important to daters 60 and older.
Doctor McNicoll adds, for older men and women seeking advice on how to meet folks online, "I certainly encourage its use among single older adults who do not have cognitive impairment because the need for intimacy is lifelong and does not go away with aging," she says. "I suggest that they specify exactly what they are looking for in a partner so that the available field is narrowed. This reduces time spent getting to know someone that will eventually not fit your wishes and reduces their frustration."
"Don't waste my time."
In previous research on dating in later life, Watson and Stelle found that older women had specific expectations regarding dating. Watson says women don’t have a need that has to be fulfilled. “Instead their philosophy is: ‘Please don’t waste my time,’” he said. “They are less likely to play games,” Stelle said. “They want to make a decision quickly and cut their losses, because they have learned life is too short for dating games.”
And while seniors may benefit from as well as enjoy meeting each other online, Dr. McNicoll reminds of the health issues with this particular population. "Older persons with dementia can become targets for abuse of any kind and need to be protected, "she says. "They may have disinhibition or poor judgment and would need close monitoring by family members of online activity and financial records. As older persons become sexually active with a new partner, they need to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. The rate of HIV in older persons has been increasing because of a lack of awareness of the risk in older adults."
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