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When we think of online dating or cyber flirting, we think about the younger generation, right?
Flicking away on smartphone screens, swiping left or right, and sending cute emojis, memes because, ya know, YOLO.
What might surprise you, is that it isn't the largest growing sector in online dating - in fact, it is the opposite. Senior daters, usually categorised as members over 50, are taking the world of digital dating by storm.
Perhaps young daters have reached market saturation point, or maybe there are some pretty good reasons those golden oldies have cornered the market; and are finding romance in the process!
Let's look at the reasons behind the phenomenon.
I think the biggest reason we fail to associate the correlation between mature dating and cyber platforms is because of the antiquated notion that older generations or retirees don't use the internet.
This ceased to be the case years ago; you'll find just about every grandparent in the world FaceTiming or Skyping with the kids during the lockdown, or posting about the next family wedding or graduation on Facebook.
Last year the World Economic Forum published figures confirming that around 70% of seniors are online.
Indeed, a lot of older folks rely on the web for everyday essentials, when perhaps they aren't as socially active as younger people who engage with others on their daily commute, working life, school pick up runs and gym sessions.
There are thousands of apps and services specifically for mature users; think medical apps that remind you when your prescription is due for renewal, or video call apps that have become invaluable since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
You can find a variety of excellent quality senior dating sites online. Some are limited in terms of geographical area or ages covered, and others are all-encompassing and may have a slightly more relaxed view about who can join the site.
I much prefer to see senior dating sites that do uphold age parameters; it means that this safe space for chatting, networking and indeed flirting doesn't get taken over by people who aren't necessarily 'senior'.
The problem with some sites is that they are oversimplified.
And I get it - a seniors dating site doesn't have to be on the cutting-edge of AI applications, and would probably cause a great deal of confusion if it were.
However, it feels a little frustrating sometimes when sites feel a little too basic compared to mainstream offerings.
We should remember that seniors have been using the internet as long as everybody else; they just started using it at a different stage of life.
Between 2013 and 2016, growth in the senior dating sector grew from 6% to 12% of all 55-64 year olds in the US.
Thinking about those stats, that means that, of around 35 million single seniors, 4.2 million have used, or are using, online dating.
That's a whopping statistic, and applies just to the US - so it's no wonder that dating site providers are upping their game when it comes to this side of the market!
Seniors in general:
This has created a valuable, highly prized demographic, and we quickly see digital dating for golden oldies catching on to the pace of growth.
It's actually very simple; the internet is an easier way to connect with more people, faster, and in a more specific way.
Say you take out a lonely hearts ad in your local paper. If the circulation is, say, 50,000 people, and half of them read all of the paper, maybe another 25% of those people will take note of the personals.
If you're massively lucky, you might get a response; but you're talking around an audience of 6,250 in a small town.
Of those, let's say 20% are in your age group, and another 25% are single and eligible. Now we've reduced our audience to a paltry 312 (and a half, but let's ignore that!). If we divide that 50/50 into men and women, we've got 156 potential daters left.
However, that same retiree or divorcee in that same town can use the power of the internet to reach millions more people, in half the time, and at a fraction of the cost
Let's take a random example: I've chosen SilverSingles as a UK sample case. The site focuses on the over 50's and has a membership of around 70,000 people just in Britain.
It has a decent 55/45 female to male split, and a premium subscription costs £74.85 for the shortest three-month membership, so £24.95 per month.
For that cost, our same lonely heart could reach 38,500 women and 31,500 men, along with photos, personality information, profile details to show where they live and what their interests are, and of course have the opportunity to send direct messages to anybody who catches their eye.
Makes sense, doesn't it!
Other reasons apply to just about everybody who uses a digital dating service:
One additional factor that we should never forget when it comes to our senior years is that loneliness can be a killer.
We should never forget that we'll all get older, and if we lose a partner or a spouse, or perhaps separate or divorce, finding new connections can feel extremely difficult if you haven't been in the dating game for several years.
I think it is terrific to see an older generation embrace the power of digital communication, and use it to find romance, happiness, friendship and connections in a time when the world seems to be growing further apart, rather than closer.
If you're ever worried about a friend or relative experiencing loneliness, take some time to visit Age UK and understand how challenging this can be, and what you can do to help.
In the meantime, keep an eye out if you're joining a new dating site. Your grandmother, or your grandkids, might be there too!