01 July 2020

New Age Courting

The rules of dating in later life are being re-written as more seniors get serious about creating meaningful relationships in their 60s and beyond. With singles now more commonly meeting on the world wide web than the local dance, it’s important to know what to expect while looking for love online.

Victorian 77-year-old ‘Casey’ has yet to give up hope while septuagenarian ‘Smilesandeyes’ from Sydney and 73-year-old ‘Nightowl’, both from Sydney, are adamant it’s just a click away.
The trio, each of whom have profiles listed on senior dating site SeniorFriendFinder, are living proof that while some Australians aged over 65 may be weary of the conventional methods of dating, the desire to lead a happy, healthy and fulfilling life with someone they care about is something that never diminishes. And, in that at least, they’re far from alone.
Dr Sue Malta, a Research Fellow at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health and a specialist in ageing issues, investigated the dating and relationship practices of older Australian heterosexual adults aged between 60 and 92 for her thesis, Love, sex and intimacy in new late-life romantic relationships.
Dr Malta’s research showed that while online dating was once considered the exclusive bastion of the young, seniors increasingly viewed the internet as a viable venue for finding romantic relationships later in life. Her findings showed there was a variety of reasons why seniors made the decision to try to meet potential suitors through online dating. However, it was principally fuelled by what many seniors saw as a dearth of available opportunities to meet like-minded others.
The Australian Seniors Series: Modern Dating report revealed that three in five of those surveyed used online dating sites such as eHarmony and RSVP and nearly 10 per cent had used mobile dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble and Happn.
But research shows not every senior believes online dating is the way forward. University of Melbourne lecturer Dr Bianca Fileborn has been involved in two national Australian research projects on sexuality and ageing. Dr Fileborn says while there is sufficient evidence to show older Australians are readily embracing online dating, there were many who had shunned the experience in favour of more traditional methods for meeting a new partner. While some seniors preferred meeting a prospective date through sporting groups or special interest clubs, others had trialled online dating only to abandon it when confronted with a negative experience, she says.
Yet no matter what their method of meeting a prospective partner, it seems seniors share many of the same desires as those aged under 65 when it comes to getting to know a new companion. In keeping with their younger counterparts, the Australian Seniors survey revealed the majority of seniors sought to remain free to ‘play the field’ until they found the right person (63 per cent). Just over half (55 per cent) admitted they would consider dating someone considerably younger than themselves.
Another interesting insight from the 2019 survey was the fact three in four participants felt physical intimacy was an important part of dating. While seven in 10 were happy to kiss on a first date, just under half (46 per cent) believed greater physical intimacy should not be explored until they had met with a prospective partner on at least three separate occasions.
Dr Fileborn says it is clear that no matter how they discover their potential partners, for a majority of older people, love and sexual intimacy remain important in their lives.