Five tips to help you approach dating at any age

Couple enjoying coffee at an outdoor cafe

Human beings are social by nature.1 We’ve evolved to thrive together—in partnerships, families, communities and societies. People with strong social connections tend to live longer, have a better mood and may even have improved brain function.2

Social connection comes in all types of relationships from a formal club to friendly chit-chat with a bank teller. But perhaps the most significant form of social connection is romantic love. Whether you’re looking for companionship, fun or a serious relationship, we’ve put together these tips to help you date as you age.

Date When You’re Emotionally Ready

Relationships of any kind can be hard work. If you’re like many people, chances are good you’ve experienced a difficult relationship or two along the way. Instead of jumping from one relationship to the next, you may want to hold off on dating until you’re emotionally ready. So, what does being emotionally ready actually mean?

First, it means that you’re over your past relationship(s) and any hard feelings or sadness. Said another way, you’re at peace with the past. You feel comfortable being single and content with the life you’ve made for yourself. You have a clear idea of who you are and are happy with yourself just as you are. You think about yourself positively and find yourself worthy of love and joy. You also have a clear idea of the values and/or interests you’re looking for in a partner without having a white-knuckle grip on those traits. To put it simply, a relationship would be the icing on the cake that is your life.

Know What You Want from Dating

Knowing what you want may make it easier to find. Take some time to think about what you want from dating and possibly a relationship. Are you looking for someone to be a companion? Someone who you can do fun things with? Do you want a serious, long-term relationship? Understand what boundaries you want to put in place beforehand and figure out what you think would make you most happy. For example, maybe you want to maintain separate residences rather than move in together. Maybe you want someone who shares your love of the open road and wants to travel in an RV for most of the summer. Relationships can be a mix of intimacy, companionship and the physical. You’ll want to find a balance that works for you.

Consider Online Dating Apps and Platforms

Online dating applications and platforms like eHarmony, Match, Our Time, Lumen and Silver Singles can make it easier to find and connect with people outside your usual social circles. Dating profiles can help you get a better sense of someone’s personality and interests. Depending on the site you use, you may be able to filter for people with similar values to yours. Dating apps have made it easier to connect with potential companions through text messaging as well as phone and/or video call functionality without having to give someone your personal phone number or email. When you’re ready to connect on the phone or through video, you can get creative with a virtual dance or movie party with apps like Netflix Party and Houseparty or exploring a virtual museum Google Arts & Culture.

Practice Safer Sex

Should you decide you are ready to be physically intimate with someone, you will want to practice safer sex. The Center for Disease Control recommends always using latex condoms, getting regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) for both you and your partner and limiting the number of people you have sex with. Many STIs can be easily diagnosed and treated. You learn more about STIs and symptoms here.3 If you experience any symptoms, be open and honest with your doctor and your partner. STIs such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, hepatitis B, genital warts, trichomoniasis and HIV/AIDS have been steadily on the rise4 for older Americans. Researchers attribute this rise to new developments in erectile dysfunction and post-menopausal treatments, high mid-life divorce rates and a general lack of awareness regarding sex education.5 Be sure to keep yourself safe with regular testing for both you and your sex partner(s) in addition to using condoms with your partner(s) and when using shared toys.

Learn from Your Peers

Dating and relationships can be confusing at times but they can also add a lot of fun and joy to your life. You may want to turn to your peers and experts for support and encouragement. Talking with friends about dating can help build social connections while listening to experts can help you improve your skills. For example, the podcast Dating While Gray is about writer Laura Stassis who begins dating after 30 years of marriage. She tells her story and the stories of other adults over 50 along with interviews from relationship experts. You may want to check out Esther Perel, a world-renowned relationship psychotherapist who has written best-selling relationship books and given TED talks. She also hosts the podcast Where Should We Begin? and offers advice based in research on everything from intimacy to eroticism, relationships to self care. Or explore AARP’s dating page which has dating tips and news for those 50 and older.6

Focus on the Process

When you focus on the process of dating rather than the end result, chances are you’ll enjoy dating more. This will allow you to help keep an open mind, be more flexible and possibly have more fun. Just because you're an adult, doesn’t mean you can’t be playful. Approach dating like a fun experiment versus a chore or a means to an end and you might surprise yourself along the way.

Sources

  1. “The cooperative human,” July 2018, Nature Humana Behavior, last accessed May 7, 2021https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-018-0389-1, opens new window.
  2. “Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks,” April 2019, National Institute on Aging, last accessed May 7, 2021, https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/social-isolation-loneliness-older-people-pose-health-risks, opens new window.
  3. “CDC Fact Sheets, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed May 7, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/std/healthcomm/fact_sheets.htm , opens new window.
  4. “Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Older Adults,” June 2019, Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, last accessed May 7, 2021, https://www.benrose.org/-/resource-library/health-and-wellness-services/sexually-transmitted-diseases-in-older-adults, opens new window
  5. “Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Older Adults,” June 2019, Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, last accessed May 7, 2021, https://www.benrose.org/-/resource-library/health-and-wellness-services/sexually-transmitted-diseases-in-older-adults, opens new window
  6. “Ready to Date,” AARP, last accessed June 8, 2021.