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Dating when you're older: how to find that connection

Last Updated at April 20th 2022
Dating can be difficult for anyone, but it can be quite different for older people who may have been in a long term relationship prior and have now reached a point in their life where they're looking for a romantic connection with someone.

Key points:

  • Connection and companionship with others are important in every life stage
  • Sometimes barriers to dating can include hesitancy from your own family
  • When dating in your later years, have people around you that support you through your journey
Older couple on a date eating sushi
Many older people may find dating difficult if they have been in a long relationship or recently lost their spouse. [Source: Shutterstock]

You may have spent many loving years with a previous partner but your partner has passed away or it didn't work out and you ended up having a "grey divorce".

Or you may simply be tired of being alone and are looking for someone to spend time with.

Either way, dating is tricky and finding a person you have a connection with can sometimes feel like a difficult journey.

Clinical and counselling psychologist Elisabeth Shaw, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Relationships Australia New South Wales, says the desire for companionship and connection is always there at any stage of life.

However, it can be hard for older people to get back into dating after being married or losing a partner when they either haven't had a first date for decades or they are having to turn to new dating formats, like online dating.

"Older people can feel like they are floundering. So going on a first date, however you meet someone, can feel very unfamiliar for someone that hasn't been on a date for years," explains Ms Shaw.

"Ultimately, that desire to be important to someone and to feel like you have got someone absolutely in your corner and on your team is a good feeling at any stage."

Barriers to dating

Many older people may find dating difficult if they have been in a long relationship or recently lost their spouse, but there can also be societal pressures that can impact getting back into dating and meeting people.

Ms Shaw explains that some people even experience pushback from their own family about re-partnering or dating.

"Dating can be a really big deal because it can feel like you have to get your kids and grandkids around the fact that you want to re-partner. Because there are a lot of ageist stereotypes that you shouldn't be driven by any physical needs," says Ms Shaw.

She says that the need for intimacy and connection is often invisible and there is almost an expectation that you should be fine to go without.

"It is amazing, kids can have very rigid ideas about what parents should do and may not greet the need for re-partnering with enough pleasure," Ms Shaw says.

"I have certainly had people say [to me] that kids can be very jealous of a re-partnering, rather than being happy for you.

"They sort of feel like if you want to re-partner, that you are betraying their father or their mother."

Finding a date

There are lots of ways to meet someone new, including through online dating. There are many apps and websites you can use to match with people with similar interests.

When dating online, it's important to be mindful of cyber safety and not give out personal information when contacting people.

You don't have to join a dating app to find that special someone. Another good way to meet new people and make friends can include engaging in hobbies or interests you enjoy.

"Rather than feel that 'I have to do something deliberate or separate to date', like a dating app, then instead join a bushwalking club because you want to do that anyway and you want to see if you can meet someone in line with your interests," Ms Shaw suggests.

"It is a good way to start yourself off and generally build your social confidence by meeting a whole range of people. And through those people, you might be introduced to others anyway.

"New social groups and connections is probably the easiest way to start and you feel like you are not wasting your time because you are doing something you enjoy anyway."

If you are happy to go online to find a date, there are plenty of websites that are specifically for older people. Popular dating websites include SilverSingles, eHarmony, Zoosk, Elite Singles, MatureDating, and Singles50.

Dating apps are also very popular among older people, as you can set an age range and only receive notifications of people within that demographic, these apps include Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble.

There are specific dating websites for if you have a religious background, for instance, ChristianMingle caters for people wanting to date people with the same religious values.

Even though online dating is hugely popular among all ages, you don't have to go online to meet someone. Your local Church, Mosque or Temple can be a good way to meet someone with the same ideals and beliefs as yourself.

Of course, friends and family may even try to set you up with eligible bachelors or bachelorettes they know.

Getting over the nerves

When it comes to a first date, Ms Shaw says it is important to remember that you are not the only one on the first date and it can be just as nerve-wracking for the person on the other side of the table.

Ms Shaw recommends that when it comes to dating, it's important to make sure you have someone "in your corner" or a "cheer squad" of supportive family and friends to get you through the bad dates or awkward interactions.

Having that support in place lets you feel more confident in saying 'no' when you need to and set boundaries with someone you start dating.

Older people should remember that finding connection with others is an important part of the human experience and they should always put themselves first when dating.

"It is really important to hold on to the legitimacy of partnering in any life stage and to be confident that whatever the messages are about what you should settle for in later life, that you should never settle," says Ms Shaw.

"If being in a relationship or having those intimate connections is important [to you], stand up for it and pursue them regardless of what others say."

How have you found getting back into the dating scene? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

Dealing with the loss of a partner
The freedom of growing older
What age is considered old?

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