Dating is increasingly becoming a part of the retirement years. More than 30 million Americans age 55 and older are currently single. But dating in your 50s or later is considerably different than dating in your 20s. Here are 10 tips for meeting and dating new people in retirement.
Look up old friends. The Internet makes it easier than ever to find people you knew in high school or college but lost touch with. Reaching out to old friends on social networking sites, through e-mail, or even going to a reunion can be a great way to reconnect and expand your social circle.
Try new activities. Meet new people in your area by joining a new club or activity. Marina Kaye, 69, a retired banker from Vermont, joined a social club for singles in 2007 when she moved to Sun City Festival, an age-restricted community in Buckeye, Ariz. She and the 40 other single members of the club, all age 55 and older, go to dinner, movies, the theater, and the symphony together. "Being single, sometimes it's intimidating to join clubs and activities that are geared toward couples," she says. "We try to emphasize friendship and fun activities so that nobody feels alone." Although women significantly outnumber men in the three-year-old club, it boasts one marriage and another couple began seriously dating.
Consider online dating. There are 393 dating service establishments in the United States, according to the Census Bureau. Many dating websites, including eHarmony and Match.com, are reporting an uptick in participants age 50 and older. Some websites cater specifically to baby boomers and seniors. Jo Ann Mondrus-Eichelberger, 55, of Agora Hills, Calif., met her current husband, Brian Eichelberger, 57, on SeniorPeopleMeet.com.
Prepare conversation starters. Come up with a few topics of conversation before the date that you can bring up if the conversation lags. "Movies and sports are always good topics," says Joy Browne, author of Dating for Dummies. "If you are interested in a topic, you are going to be lively and engaged talking about it."
Don't do all the talking. You don't want to take your conversation starters too far and end up grilling your date about their job, income, and who else they're dating. "Don't take over the conversation too much," says Gian Gonzaga, eHarmony's senior director of research and development and author of Dating the Second Time Around. "You want to spend more time getting to know the other person than bragging about yourself."
Have an exit strategy. Schedule a brief meet-up in a public place for your first date so you can back out if you aren't having a good time. "Coffee is a really good first date because you know you are supposed to be there about 30 minutes," says Gonzaga. "If it goes really well, you can go off and have lunch and extend the date out."
Don't dwell on your kids. It's important to mention that you have children, and how old they are. "Your children are part of who you are," says Mondrus-Eichelberger. But don't spend the entire date talking about your children and grandchildren. You want to focus on getting to know the other person.
Don't mention your ex. Almost everyone in retirement has some dating or marital history. But you don't need to disclose your entire life story on a first date. "You will gradually increase what you tell them as the relationship goes on," says Gonzaga.
Less emphasis on Valentine's Day. This romantic holiday seems to decline in importance as people age. While a clear majority (71 percent) of adults in their early 20s plan to celebrate Valentine's Day this year, only about half of baby boomers (53 percent) between ages 55 and 64, and 40 percent of those age 65 and older plan to commemorate the holiday, according to a National Retail Federation and BIGresearch survey of 8,913 adults. The amount people are planning to spend on Valentine's day gifts for a significant other also decreases with age from a peak of $113.19 among those age 25 to 34 to $57.60 among baby boomers and $43.62 among retirees.
Relax. Now that the childbearing years are largely behind you, retirees are free to date solely because they enjoy spending time with another person. "You don't have to wonder, 'Will she be a good mother?' or 'Will I be a good father?'," says Robert Morris, 67, of Concord, Calif., who has been dating once or twice a week for the past three years. "You're settled in your life. You can just enjoy each other's company."