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Dating After 50: What to Know Before Going Online

A couple dating after 50 hugging in a field and smiling.

Are you 50 or older and out of your long-term marriage or relationship but not ready to close the door on love? Does all the left and right swiping on dating apps to find a romantic partner make you feel like a dinosaur? Do you sometimes wonder if you can fall in love again?

If you’ve been around the block a few times and want to meet someone new, but the idea of online dating strikes fear into your heart, here are a few tips about how you should approach online dating over the age of 50:

1. Don’t just rely on your photos.
Yes, yes, everybody looks at photos first and you still have to pass that threshold, but since those of us over 50 aren’t exactly spring chickens anymore, you’re going to do better on sites geared towards the over-fifty crowd and/or those that include written profiles and other information as a big feature.

Most of us can’t get away with posting a quick selfie and having the masses start messaging us, but your main photo is the one that people will see first, so make it a good one. Don’t be tempted to use Photoshop and stay away from professional photos. (They actually don’t do well on dating sites because people will think you’re fake) So if you’ve got wrinkles, wear ‘em with pride. You don’t want a photo so fabulous that when the 3D you shows up on that first date, it’s a disappointment.

2. Write a killer profile.
With online dating, pics and profiles are pretty much all you’ve got to go on until you meet someone in person. And given that pictures don’t tell the whole story, your written profile is your best bet for getting noticed online.

Having said that, don’t sweat the whole “essay” thing too much. The online world is one big ADD fest (Attention Deficit Disorder, if you were wondering), so make sure the first line of your profile is your best and something that’s distinctly you. Something specific, personal, and unique. There’s a whole lot of people saying the same thing out there, and you’ll do better if you spend some time getting this part right.

So be specific; use details. For example, instead of saying you like gardening, tell people about the recent crop of cherry tomatoes gracing your patio. Or, instead of saying you like to curl up with a partner for a night of Netflix (there’s way too much of that out there on dating sites), tell people which series you’re addicted to. If you’re stumped, read other profiles and see which ones catch your attention.

3. Be prepared to pursue.
Don’t wait around for others to find you, go find them. It’s a jungle and a circus and a huge ocean of smiling faces out there. It can be overwhelming at first. But even if you have a lot of people messaging you, reach out to the ones whose profiles and pictures appeal to you

4. Steel yourself for some rejection.
It’s normal on dating sites to never hear back from a lot of the people you reach out to. Here’s a well-known secret—Some people whose profiles you see may have long since left the site, if that person didn’t know how to erase their information (word to the wise: letting your membership lapse does not erase your profile) so you might be writing to someone who doesn’t use the site anymore.

Other times, the person you wrote to is just not that into you. It can be demoralizing not to hear back when you took a lot of time to compose an earnest and thoughtful message, which included your most witty banter. But we all need to develop a c’est la vie attitude about it. It’s all part of the process of meeting someone and besides, rejection only makes you stronger.

5. Beware of ghosts.
Another phenomenon that frequently happens is known as “ghosting.” You may strike up a good exchange with one person who promptly disappears, never to be heard from again. Don’t waste time wondering where they went and what you did wrong. There are a million reasons why people stop corresponding, many of which have nothing to do with you.

One guy I dated told me he stopped corresponding online whenever life got too busy, but he soon came to realize that this was a failing strategy, because when he bothered to check back in, the women either didn’t respond or they said, “Oh, I thought you weren’t interested, and I’ve moved on.”

6. Have fun with it,
Online dating can be a lot of fun once you get used to how it works. You can enjoy meeting and talking to a lot of new people, and getting to know some of them well, right from your home. You may actually end up going on a few dates, or even starting a relationship. A lot of the people dating online today are over the age of 50, so if you’re ready to get out there it can be a great place to start.

Karen Haddigan is the author (in collaboration with Debi Helm) of the soon-to-be published book Secrets of Dating After Fifty: The Insider’s Guide to Finding Love Again. Learn more about Karen, Debi, and dating after fifty at

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