‘I was looking for sex, now I’m in love’: what it’s like to use dating apps in your sixties

At 57 and recently divorced, Michael wasn’t looking for love. To be honest, when I started using dating apps I was looking for sex. Towards the end of his marriage, his sex life had been non-existent, so once he was single, he was ready to hook up with women.

He spent days scrolling through various apps. She joined Tinder, Bumble, and even hookup apps like Pure, but struggled to match with anyone, never mind get a date. It made him miserable. “I followed Bumble, but it was like a tumbleweed, I had absolutely nothing. It was demoralizing, so I deleted it,” she says.

When he was in his twenties and living in London, it wasn’t difficult for Michael to get a date. “It looked good at the time,” he says. Working in the movies, he met women all the time. The last time he went on a date, he was 30. But as he approached 60, Michael was surprised at how much the dating world had changed. The endless swiping of dating apps was depressing and rejection was common. Then his friend told him about the hinge.

“Once they told me to download Hinge, my dating went ballistic,” he says. “There were a lot more women my age on this app. Before long, I had 17 dates lined up.”

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Michael joined hordes of seniors just trying dating apps for the first time. Divorce rates among the over-60s have doubled since 1993, and it looks like these newly singles are looking for a good time.

This increase in older people is reflected in sexual health statistics. A report from the Association of Local Governments says the number of reported STIs among those over 65 has increased by 20 percent, from 2,280 in 2017 to 2,748 in 2019. The biggest increases were gonorrhea and chlamydia

And while most over-65s say they met their partners at work (20%) or at a bar (20%), in 2019, two percent said they met their couple on a dating app. That number may be small, but it’s growing. By 2022, it rose to three percent, compared to 13 percent of 25-34 year olds who met their partner this way.

For Michael, entering this new world of online dating was disorienting. “Getting on dating apps is painful. They get a lot of rejections that I’m not used to,” he says.

But then, after 17 dates on Hinge, something amazing happened: Michael fell in love. “I wasn’t expecting this. I wasn’t looking for anything serious,” she says. “Even before the date, it was pretty clear that we were very attracted to each other. We met in a bar and it was amazing,” he says.

A few weeks after leaving, Michael had to travel to Cape Town to work for four months. “I decided to book us a two-week vacation in Italy for when I got back. I wanted to see if this was going to work. I probably wouldn’t have done it when I was younger,” she says. “In my twenties, I didn’t feel like doing ticking clock Now, I don’t want to waste any more time.”

Psychotherapist Isabelle Hung runs The Divorce Club, a support network for divorced people. It encourages people to jump into dating apps. “For the seniors who come to our meetings, we like to do a few training sessions on how to use dating apps and the new rules that come with it,” says Hung.

“It’s very stressful for some people. The whole dating scene has changed since they were young. People used to date one person at a time, but now I have to explain that now people are dating multiple people at the same time, thanks to apps.”

Hung advises that seniors should focus on apps aimed at the over-50s, such as Our Time and Silver Singles.

Rachel New has been a dating coach for seven years (Photo: Rachel New)

Dating coach Rachel New also helps many older clients navigate the new online dating scene. His advice is always the same. “Always allow the attraction to be a slow burn,” he says.

“People in their sixties and seventies are very nostalgic about how they met their first partner. They think it should be like this again: an instant attraction and a natural meeting through friends or the pub. But later in life that’s not always the case, and you have to make room for that.”

It’s about changing that mindset,” he says.

For some older people, there can be anxiety about meeting someone online. When Audrey Lindt, co-author of a book, Misadventures in Mature Dating, became single in her 60s after her divorce, she threw herself into online dating. “My daughter got me into apps,” he says, specifically Luxy, an app he says is aimed at “high-end” singles.

He was surprised by the attention he received. For a year, she was harassed by men who claimed to be super rich. “They all promised me the world, saying they knew how to treat a woman and boasted about having an expensive lifestyle, but learned that the most interesting men were actually scammers. They were trying to get me to send money. I reported them in the app as scammers, but nothing happened. Luckily, I didn’t encounter any of them.”

Lindt believes that the elderly are particularly at risk of being exploited. “I think these scammers come for older men and women because they probably think we have money and are desperate to talk to people,” he says.

He is now 67 years old and has been in a happy relationship for five years. “I finally met my partner at Luxy. Our first date was great. We went for a walk and then we went to lunch. He kissed my neck and I was like, wow, this could be something.” he says

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Roy, 61, from London, has been enjoying a new life since his divorce. “I went out with some friends last night. We had shots. I’m really hungover,” he says over the phone. Since January, Roy has been using dating apps frequently.

“I wasn’t looking for hookups, so I didn’t bother with Tinder. I started with Bumble, but I was very reluctant to use the apps,” she says. “I’m not convinced that everyone on dating apps is really interested in dating,” she says.

During his year of experimenting with dating apps, Roy had a short three-month relationship and several dates. She has tried almost every platform – from Silver Singles to Facebook Dating. “It’s a lot harder to date at that age,” she says. “It’s impossible to meet someone in real life because most people my age are married.”

Roy is currently the most successful Silver Singles. To join this app, users take a personality test. After completing the test, the app matches you with users who best match your quiz results.

Apps like Tinder and Bumble are different: instead of personality cues, users select a selection of photos. Hinge is a mix of personality cues and curated images. A relatively unknown site is Facebook Dating: accessed through the Facebook app, it matches you with friends of friends, as well as people you may know.

One day, while out with a friend, Roy met a woman in a bar. “I thought, it’s so rare that I meet a woman naturally,” he says. “So I asked him on a date. Then a couple of days later he started asking me for money.” Roy quickly canceled the next date.

But Roy hasn’t given up on romance. “I have dates set up weeks in advance at this point and I try to go on one date a week and also balance my time with my friends,” she says.

As Roy continues to search, Michael is happier than ever. “My marriage was very verbally abusive, but now I’m with the most wonderful woman in the world. I think she’s the best woman I’ve ever met,” he says.

He adds: “My advice to older people would be: don’t give up and don’t lie about your age. Be yourself.”

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