Looking for love or companionship? Try this beginners guide to online dating over 50

Whatever your reason for wanting to dip your toes in the dating pool, there’s plenty to be gained from taking your search online. Perhaps you haven’t yet come across your soulmate, or you’re ready to start dating again after a divorce. Making a conscious decision to go in search of love or companionship can leave you feeling both nervous and excited – especially if it’s been a while since you last went on date. But try to keep in mind that dating is supposed to be fun and romance could be just a click away…

The evolution of technology has seen online dating sweep the globe, to the point where 1 in 5 new relationships now start online. For the most part, any stigma and prejudices attached to the idea of meeting someone online are long gone, and online dating is now widely seen as a convenient and effective way to connect with singles who may have otherwise never crossed your path. So the question is, what could online dating do for you?

The benefits of online dating in your 50s or 60s

Like everything in life, online dating does come with some negatives such as trying to weed out the good dating profiles from the bad, not being able to form a first impression of someone based on physical interaction and of course – concerns about scams. Despite these challenges, online dating has become increasingly popular as more people come round to the idea that often, the good can far outweigh the bad.

Some of the most talked about benefits of online dating include:

  • Being able to come into contact with a diverse range of people – increasing the chances of meeting people that will have plenty of things in common with you.
  • Convenience. Whilst the idea of the traditional blind date can be exciting, it can also waste a lot of time because you have no idea whether you’re going to find the person attractive. Online dating allows you to form an impression of someone first, and find out whether there are things that you like about them, before deciding whether it’s worth going on a date.
  • Choice. You may find yourself interested in someone that doesn’t necessarily tick all the boxes you had in mind, but ticks new boxes instead, and interests you in ways you didn’t expect.
  • Low commitment. If you speak to someone online and instantly realise that they aren’t the person for you, then it’s much easier (and less awkward) to cut contact politely. It’s much harder to do that when you’ve just sat down to dinner with a stranger!
  • Sitting down and getting to browse potential partners over a cup of tea or a glass of wine can be great fun!

10 tips to help you get started with online dating

1. Consider whether you’re ready to start dating

There’s a good chance that if you’re reading these tips then you’re either curious about,or seriously committed to the idea of online dating. Either way, before putting yourself out there, it’s helpful to spend some time thinking about whether you’re ready to let someone else into your life, and what you’d like to gain from doing so. 

For example, are you looking to find a long-term partner or would you just like someone to share your company with every now and then over dinner or a movie? Online dating becomes much easier when you know what you want and are able to be fully open to the idea of meeting someone. So it’s good to be honest with yourself upfront if you want to get the most out of it.

2. Find a site that works for you

There are hundreds of dating sites out there, so if you’re new to online dating then it can be daunting trying to work out which ones to use. This will largely come down to your needs and desires and may be something that becomes clearer once you’ve started your online dating journey and you know more about what sort of partner or companion you’re looking for and how the sites work. For example, you may be interested in a site that is aimed at a specific type of person such as professionals, or people who love the countryside (yes that’s a real dating site)!

If you’re looking for somewhere to start, then it can be a good idea to try a well-known, reputable site. There are many, but three well established brands are Match.com, eHarmony, or our own Rest Less Dating site.

  • Rest Less dating is great to connect with other like-minded singles over 50. By selecting qualities important to you, you’ll meet your match faster in a safe and secure environment.
  • Match.com is great for anyone getting back out on the dating scene, especially if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for as it has a very diverse user base.
  • eHarmony is great for finding people who are interested in starting a serious relationship. Users are required to fill out a detailed questionnaire which will help you to find compatible matches.

You can sign up to all three sites free, which will allow you to create your profile and view other people’s profiles. If you want to send and receive messages, then you will need to subscribe to the paid version.

Online dating is one area where the benefits of using paid sites can be much greater. People who are willing to pay for a dating service are often much more serious about meeting someone to form a steady relationship. Paid sites will often have better verification and privacy processes in place, to make sure scammers or suspicious profiles are removed (or at least reduced in number) from the site and that all your private information remains secure.

If you’re not sure whether a dating site is for you, then it can be worth signing up for a free membership and browsing through user profiles to see whether you come across anyone you’re interested in. If you don’t, you can always cancel your account and try something else – but if you do, then you could consider whether you’d like to pay and make full use of the service.

3. Be selective about which information you decide to share

Once you’ve chosen a site that works for you, it’s time to set up your profile! The structure and length of your profile may differ depending on which dating site(s) or app(s) you decide to sign up to, but as a general rule, it’s always best to keep it brief and avoid oversharing. 

You have no idea who is going to be reading your profile, so it’s best to only share what you would comfortably share during a random conversation with a stranger at a pub or bar. This is also a great way to evoke curiosity in potential dating partners and gives them a reason to send you a message to find out more.

4. Try to use a natural photo of yourself

Your photo is going to be the first thing that others see when they stumble across your dating profile, so try to use a photo that helps to show off your personality, for example, a fun holiday snap or a photo of you doing something you enjoy. The more natural the shot, the better as it can give someone a clearer idea of what you may be like in person. 

It’s best to avoid selfies, as they tend to look very staged and are sometimes taken from angles that don’t fully reflect how we appear in real life. It’s not uncommon for people to feel completely taken aback when they arrive to meet someone who ends up looking nothing like their photo!

5. Include information that could start a conversation with like-minded individuals

Whilst the information in your profile should be brief, it should also be interesting enough that it catches the attention of people like you. Consider what you’re looking for in a person and what you would want to read on someone else’s dating profile.

If it’s an absolute must that someone not only likes you but likes your dog too, then make it clear that you spend your weekends going on long walks with yours. If you have a slightly unusual hobby and you’d love to find someone that shares a similar interest, then make sure you mention that in there. If you’re mad about cooking and you want to meet a fellow foodie, then include that, and so on. You can’t include absolutely everything on your profile so think about which things would ultimately be a dealbreaker when it comes to choosing a potential partner, and go from there.

6. Keep it positive

If you’ve not been lucky in love in the past, then your past experiences may have cast a shadow of doubt over any future romance – but don’t let this show. Make sure that your profile is positive and upbeat. Don’t use it as a place to put yourself down or reference past relationships, as you don’t want a potential date to be put off by your insecurities or bitterness about your ex. Also make sure that you choose a photo where you look happy. A smile is infectious, so don’t be too shy to show others yours!

7. When you’ve written your profile, read it aloud to yourself

It’s not uncommon for people to use bad jokes or sarcasm in their dating profile in an attempt to make others laugh. However, this may not always come across in the way that you hope it will online. People interpret humour differently and it has the potential to come across like you aren’t serious about your dating experience, which for some can be off putting. It’s better to save your best jokes until you meet in person and your date can get a more well-rounded picture of who you are.

8. Stay safe

Online dating can be a lot of fun, as long as you stay safe. This includes always meeting your date in a public place until you know them better and not giving out any personal information – like your home or work address – that could allow your date to track you down without warning. If you’re going to exchange information for the purposes of planning a date then only ever give someone your telephone number or email address, as it’s easy to block communications from a person if you need to.

It’s important to remember that not everyone online will be genuine – “catfishing” and romance scams do happen. There are instances where people will include false information and/or images on their profile in an attempt to lure someone into a relationship. There can be many reasons for this. Sometimes a person will hide behind a fake profile due to personal insecurities or will try to lure people into a scam, where they will try to get hundreds, or even thousands of pounds out of their victims. For this reason, it’s crucial that you never give out your personal banking details to anyone that you’ve recently met on a dating site, regardless of what reason they give you as to why they may need the money. And if you find someone asking you for money through a dating service then it’s important to report it, as this could prevent others from falling victim.

In general, it’s a good rule of thumb to take everything that you read and see online with a pinch of salt until you’ve met a person in the flesh. People do sometimes lie and unfortunately you won’t always know until you’re standing right in front of them. Make sure that (when meeting in person outside of lockdown restrictions) you always arrange to meet in a public place, and tell a trusted friend or family member when and where your date will be taking place so they can check in with you after to make sure that everything went okay. It’s unlikely that you will end up meeting anyone that has any bad intentions, so don’t let stranger danger put you off – just make sure you’re sensible about it and if something feels wrong, trust your instincts.

Get Safe Online offers more details about staying safe whilst online dating, here – or we’ve also written our own guide; 10 tips for staying safe while dating online.

9. Don’t get too hung up on one person

You might start talking to someone online and think that they seem like the perfect person, but then you meet up and everything isn’t as it seems – they look nothing like their photo and they lied about a couple of things on their profile that really appealed to you. This is a scenario which you should always prepare yourself for when you start online dating, so try not to put all your eggs in one basket and keep an open mind.

When you first start dating, there’s nothing wrong with setting up a few dates at once, so that if one doesn’t work out, it doesn’t seem so bad because you have another one to go to next week. It’s also completely normal to be positively surprised, by people whose profile didn’t really do them justice and you won’t want to miss out on those opportunities either.

It’s quite normal to meet a number of people that you may not have a romantic connection with – which may just mean that you end up making some new friends along the way.

10. If you’re not enjoying a date, then it’s okay to get up and leave (or to end the video call if your date is virtual)

Don’t feel that just because you agree to a date with someone (virtual, in person or otherwise) that you have to sit through the entire thing if you’re not enjoying it or it’s making you uncomfortable. If you realise part way through, or even early on that this person just isn’t for you, then it’s perfectly okay to end the date early, by either leaving or ending a phone or video call. You don’t have to give specific reasons as to why – simply stating that you feel that things between you aren’t going to work out between you will be enough. If you’re nervous about this, then you could arrange to meet virtually first, or go for a coffee or a drink on your first date (when lockdown restrictions have eased). This might help you to feel more relaxed about escaping, as leaving early from a full-on dinner commitment can be a little more awkward.

And finally…

Plenty of people who meet through online dating sites go on to form long-term relationships and it can be a successful way to meet your next life partner at any age. Nonetheless, the process is typically much more enjoyable if you can have fun with it and not take it too seriously – especially at the beginning. If you have a friend who is also single, sometimes it can be nice to sign up to a dating site or app at the same time and start your journey together. This way you can support each other through the highs and lows of the experience.

Whatever happens, try to remember that there are plenty more fish in the sea and the right person will be out there somewhere! And sometimes you just can’t hurry love…

Have you had a positive experience with online dating? Leave a comment below, or share with others on the Rest Less community forum.

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