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Online dating for the over 40s

Online dating for the over 40s

The internet may have revolutionised romance, but most things about forming a relationship stay the same.

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Love & Lovemaking

Everyone likes the outdoors, laughing, travelling, a glass of wine with their friends. They’re all looking for someone kind, down-to-earth, intelligent, with a good sense of humour. They all post photos with pets, on boats, with a drink, disguising their flaws and looking as hot as possible.

The stigma once affixed to online dating has gone. It’s no longer a talking point if you meet The One in cyberspace. Online dating technology is evolving, fuelled by sexed-up 20-somethings furiously swiping left. Where singles once struggled to get a date, apps such as Tinder make it possible to date a different person every night of the week. Hell, more than one person a night.

But there’s another vast group of people using these apps who don’t want such fleeting interactions. Aged in their late 30s, 40s, 50s and older, those in this group have often survived the breakdown of marriages and long term relationships, they usually have children and/or requiring careers, have the complications that come with middle age – children, houses, requiring careers – and little desire to be hooking up in bars at midnight.

Instead, these people are taking to Tinder, or creating their own websites, looking for love and long-term relationships.

Fresh services are popping up that specifically cater to this older market, such as Stitch, an app founded by Australian Andrew Dowling that targets those over 60.

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",On a entire, the Stitch user base has been growing by 15-20 percent month on month ever since we launched a year ago,", says Dowling.

",We have a petite group of early stage adopters in Fresh Zealand already, and we’d love to see more.",

Last month, 60-year-old Auckland teacher Jan Habgood made headlines around the world when her daughters set up a website to help her search for a playmate.

Named The Sea (as in, ",slew of fish in…",), the site was designed and written by her 27-year-old daughter Hannah, and looks more modern and vibrant than dating websites.

Studs are invited to pack out a form, and Jan and Hannah sort through the applicants together, contacting whoever Jan is interested in.

In the very first week, Jan received 50 applicants from all over Fresh Zealand, as well as Australia and the UK. Jan declined to be interviewed, but Hannah says her mum had attempted online dating in the past and found it too arduous. And while she’d never proclaimed that she was lonely or dreamed to find someone, Hannah sensed she’d like to be in a relationship.

",Before the applications commenced coming in she was like, ‘What if no one wants to date me?’", says Hannah. ",It’s actually been a bit of a confidence boost for her,", she says.

",She’s being the face of it for all these other people who are too startled to say, ‘Yeah, I am 60, 65, and I can still meet someone’.",

Would she set up a profile for Jan on Tinder? ",I don’t truly like the thought of my mum on Tinder,", says Hannah. ",Based on the people I know on Tinder, it is a little less serious, more ‘lets meet up and have lovemaking’.",


Not so, says Hamish Aitcheson, a Tinder-using 57-year-old father of two.

While he’s encountered slew of people looking for a one night stand or just having a laugh, there are hundreds of Kiwis over 40-50 using Tinder to find romance.

Aitcheson recently commenced using the app again after a nine-month relationship – with a woman he met on Tinder – came to an end.

",I think it’s a modern way to meet people,", he says. ",Traditionally, you’d roll up to a bar, have a duo of drinks and take a chance. With Tinder, you can glean a bit from their information and you meet them somewhere like a busy bar, so it’s not too awkward or spooky.",

His most latest date was with a woman he’d connected with prior to his nine-month relationship. They broke the ice by talking about their memorable Tinder dates.


Aitcheson senses that the stigma once fastened to meeting people through technology is fading. ",I think earlier on there was an idea of it as a hook-up-type site, but I think everybody sees it as not just a grubby site specifically for sexual liaisons. Now, it’s a little bit edgy but still credible in terms of meeting someone on it,.", he says. ",I think it’s harmless, and it’s safe, and for people in my age bracket, over 50, I think it’s worthwhile.",

Joanna (not her real name) returned to Fresh Zealand from a stint in London Ten years ago to find not a dating pool, but a dating puddle. ",There, it seemed you’d meet a lot more eligible people in your age group. In Auckland I felt like there wasn’t a lot of choice,", she says.

So she leaped online to broaden her prospects. She mainly used FindSomeone, and had some serious relationships, including one man with whom she had a child. But the novelty wore off, and she began to feel like she wasn’t going to find The One on there. So, six months ago, the 46-year-old working mother of one embarked using Tinder.

Joanna chooses the app to websites, for the immediacy it provides, its modern, easy-to-use interface, the absence of long, involved descriptions. ",I also like the fact you’re not witnessing everybody that’s observing you. I hate that thing about online dating – notifications that say ‘these people are looking at you.’ I like that you match if they think the same thing, or if they like you.",

You quickly learn the types to avoid, says Joanna: fellows whose photos feature a gun, a motorbike, or their ex-partner. Guys who message her with a winking smile or open the conversation with ",DTF?", (",Down To F***?",)

",I think I’m a bit discerning about that stuff – I pick a dick pretty quickly. That’s the good thing about Tinder in some ways, it’s so instantaneous.", she says.

Joanna would recommend the app, but cautions: ",I would say keep your expectations kind of low.",

What’s missing, she believes, is the chemistry that takes place when you meet someone sans screens. ",When you meet somebody in person, it’s what makes you want to see that person again. It’s not all about their physical appearance or what they do or that they drive a certain car. All that chemistry is lost online.",


The technology is fresh, but the reservations are the same as those of online dating. Jill Goldson, a relationship counsellor and director of the Family Matters Centre, says people are afraid of being scammed, putting their privacy at risk, attracting stalkers, and being taken advantage of.

",Is the person’s profile fair? Are people signifying themselves as someone they’re not? Do they indeed live in a quaint cottage or are they in a shack, up to their eyeballs in alcohol and debt?", says Goldson.

Dowling says some Stitch users have reported safety concerns.

",Unluckily, those over 50 are more targeted than junior people by scammers. We’ve had innumerable members tell us of practices that they’ve had,", he says. ",When we made Stitch, safety was on the top of our list and our members go through a verification process.",

Hannah Habgood sorts through the applicants with her mum to ensure she stays safe. ",We had one come through that I was like, sounds fake. I don’t think Mum would pick that up. Turns out he wasn’t but that would be the kind of thing where Mum would say, ‘Oh that sounds nice, that picture looks nice,’ where it could be from Getty.",

One dating site that Joanna used about five years ago (she can’t recall the name) turned out to be a scam, and she lost $90 before realising she’d been duped. But both her and Aitcheson feel that apps like Tinder are better tooled to tackle those kind of problems.

",You can stay as anonymous as you like,", says Aitcheson. ",You’re only exposed by the amount of information you pit out there. I don’t put all my details out there. There are a lot of weirdos in cyberspace.",

There’s also the same fear of rejection that so many online dating users practice.

Only now, instead of going on three dates a year, you might go on 30. You only get what you give, so don’t be discouraged by setbacks, says Joanna. ",I went on one date a few weeks ago,", she says. ",We got on fairly well. I thought he was fairly nice, I liked him, I would’ve gone on another date, but he said ‘You’re in the friends’ category’. Ouch! But it was fine.",

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