Elder Love in the Digital Age by Israel Lopez
In the age of the Internet, the phrase “there’s an app for that” has become our go to motto for the way life works now. Practically everyone uses apps for daily life. But people are also using them to search for love. According to a national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted in the past year among 2,001 adults, 12 percent of American adults have used an online dating site; up slightly from 9 percent in early 2013 and 9 percent of American adults have used a dating app on their cellphone. Not surprisingly, millenials are up on this trend but there is a group out there whose involvement is also notable. Studies have shown that people 45 to 70 make up a good 20 percent of users for dating apps worldwide. Online dating is not just for the kids anymore.
According to the Pew Research Institute, online dating has lost a lot of its stigma amongst adults and over 59 percent of Americans agree that meeting online is the norm. Among U.S. adults’ ages 55 to 64, online dating use has doubled since 2013. The institute concluded that from a study group of 2,000 adults, 12 percent of people in this age group have tried to find someone online, up from 6 percent who reported doing so three years ago.
It’s a huge departure from the early days of dating online, when younger people signed up in the thousands, but few members of the older crowd joined the scene. The acceptance of online dating among these older adults reflects a growing trend of older adults joining in the trend. According to a separate Pew survey from October, social-media usage among 65-year-olds and over has more than tripled to 35 percent since 2010, when only 11 percent used social media.
“Men tend to approach online dating like it’s a candy store,” states Ken Molin, AARP dating expert. “They just spin the dial, and you can tell … by the messages they send. ‘You’re cute, let’s talk’ — how many people did you think they send that to?”
But that’s not necessarily the case with women who look more critically about what goes into a relationship, especially with how much sex plays into it.
“It’s more difficult for men to understand that the best relationships are also best friendships,” Molin states. “We were raised to think that once you become friends with a woman, sex is over. Actually the opposite is true. Once you become close with a woman you love, the sex gets better.”
But perhaps men only have this mentality because of their place in the societal hierarchy. According to a study by Reuters, men have the most online pursuers at 48 and a woman reaches her peak early at 26. Men clearly have the most staying power in the dating game as they overwhelm the dating pool at 52.4 percent compared to women at 47.6 percent. Men are also more likely to lie about their age, height, and income while women are more likely to lie about their weight and physical build.
“It is really overwhelming,” said Maria Torres, 56. “I have more trouble finding someone now than I did back in high school.”
Torres, a single mother of one, said that she initially signed up for an online dating app because she was encouraged by her daughter to get back out there. But she says that it hasn’t been what she thought that it would be.
“I’ll get messages from men who will be like, ‘Wow, you look to good to be over fifty but you know you could stand to lose a little bit of weight,’” said Torres. “And then I’m like, “How are you going to come talk to me this way when you have more head than hair?’ Some people must not age out of their immaturity, I guess.”
But men like Benito Diaz do not see it that way. Diaz, 55, has never been married and has turned to the world of dating apps to help him find someone to settle down with. He says that men, especially older men, struggle to compensate for their insecurities a lot more than women do.
“It took a long time to accept that I was old. How was I supposed to be sexy when I got mad wrinkles on my face?” joked Diaz. “But there is this stigma that guys have to continue to be these big, adventurous guys for all of their life. We get a lot of pressure thrown on us to still be like Prince Charming or whatever. But men are sensitive too and we just have different ways of showing it. So it’s a vicious cycle, women get their insecurities from men with insecurities. I’m not saying its right. I’m just saying it happens.”
Like all journeys in the dating world, there are ups and downs but those brave enough to keep searching will continue to go on. Love, like technology, will continue to adapt but it will always be recognizable. For those still searching for that special someone, it seems now that it has never been truer that the search never really ends, even for those of a certain age.
“I still want to get married. I don’t care if it happens when I’m 80,” said Diaz. “I got a date next week. Who knows what might happen?”