Want to meet someone but not quite sure where to start? Dating can seem daunting at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic, but if you're looking to get back out there (even if only virtually for now), we've compiled the best tips from gransnetters on how to date successfully - and safely.
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Before you start dating, it's worth asking yourself what kind of relationship you're looking for. Are you wanting something casual? More long-term? A companion rather than a love interest? It's also important to be aware that dating and meeting someone you share a connection with takes time - don't expect immediate results or feel upset if that first conversation online doesn't happen overnight. It can be a long process, but it's better to wait and find a great match rather than rushing into something that isn't right for you.
"I had a lot of contact from younger men, which was very flattering until it dawned on me what they had in mind!"
With so many dating sites out there, finding the appropriate one for you might feel like a bit of a minefield. It's trial and error at the end of the day, so there's no harm in taking the plunge and signing up even if you're not 100% sure. Many sites offer free registration initially, but you will often have to upgrade in order to use any premium features. Unsure where to start? Our guide to the best dating sites for over 50s has information on what different services offer.
"I'd recommend joining a dating site affiliated with the newspaper you read. The people I met through Telegraph Dating were all of a similar background, level of education and had the same outlook as me."
It might seem obvious, but considering the increased popularity of dating sites, it's good to stand out from the crowd. Not only should you write about your interests and what you're looking for on your preferred dating site, including age range, but you should try to create a unique description of yourself, perhaps with a fun and intriguing headline that grabs the reader's attention. It's really important that you are honest though - don't write that you're interested in something you're not to appear more impressive. Finish your online profile off with a lovely, recent photo that makes you feel confident and you're good to go.
"Be clear and upfront about what you want. I was clear about what my family set-up was and said that I wasn't prepared to be messed about!"
One of the benefits of online dating is that you can learn a lot about someone by just browsing through their profile. Take a look at their hobbies, interests and how they describe themselves. Having a common ground is a great place to start when striking up a virtual conversation, but don't discard someone straight away if your interests don't align. Remember, opposites attract, as they say.
"Look for meet-ups where people looking for friendship post events they want to go to. A friend made lots of contacts and a large social circle this way. Maybe dating could follow."
"I have met a caring, affectionate and understanding person. We have known each other for six months and it is working out really well. On paper our interests are very different so do not dismiss anyone because of this."
While there are many positives to online dating, there are also a few things to look out for, one of which is catfishing. While this may sound harmless (it isn't literally fishing for catfish unsurprisingly!), the term is actually used to describe someone who creates a fake identity on a social networking site for dishonest purposes. It might take a little time for you to figure out that a person isn't who they say they are, but trusting your gut instinct usually works...as does a little detective work on Google.
"I recommend Googling anyone you intend to meet. If they have told you they are a school governor/on the parish council/captain of a golf club they will have a digital footprint."
It's important that you don't feel rushed or pressured into anything, especially if you're concerned that the person you've been chatting to isn't genuine or might only be interested in sex. Be clear about what you want, and if you find yourself feeling anxious, pressured or ill at ease, then consider pulling away from the exchange altogether. This is especially important when virtual relationships evolve, particularly if you're thinking about giving out your phone number or looking to go on a first date.
"I actually put in my profile that I only wanted to hear from people who were interested in developing a relationship over time. I think it paid to be frank and, as a result, I have met someone very genuine."
What else should you look out for? As with anything, approach online dating with some level of caution so that you are always safe online. Online safety is of paramount importance at any age, but older people are particularly vulnerable when it comes to online scams, many of which are conducted on dating sites.
When using a dating site, only share as much information as you're comfortable with. Don't part with identifying information such as your address or bank details. Take things at your own pace, only share your phone number if you feel safe doing so, and be sure to pick meeting spots carefully when going on a first date - a public spot during the day in a familiar area is crucial according to our gransnetters.
"Just be careful and make sure someone knows when and where you are meeting any intended 'date' and don't give too much personal information on those first few meetings."
"You just have to be on your guard. The advantage is that you can 'block' anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable. When or if you decide to meet someone, remember that even if you've been talking to this person for a while they're still technically a stranger."
"I would never discuss my finances. In the past I have told 'boyfriends' that I rent my house, or that it belongs to my ex-husband, not that I'm cynical but I am very wary of the phrase "this is a nice big house, do you own it?" I would also trust my gut instincts."
If you've met someone and you don't want to see them again, it's important to be honest and open if they ask you out again. It may be tempting to come up with excuses for not meeting and eventually hope they'll take the hint, but being clear, yet still polite and kind, is the best way to let someone know where they stand and not give them false hope.
'Red flags', or warnings of danger, in the dating world are common. Take heed from these gransnetters on the things to look out for:
"Don’t think you can ‘change him’ if you come to discover things you’re wary about. What you see IS what you get. Leopards and spots. Only you can decide what is acceptable in a partner."
"Don’t assume that any man you meet might be ‘the one’. As soon as you start to see someone as a potential life partner, you see them selectively. You don’t notice, or don’t take account of, things that might be warning signs, and your mind overplays the nicer parts of the relationship."
"Take it slowly and never reject your gut feeling."
"I would try to go out for a meal with them and observe how they treat the waiting staff. If they are rude to them that's a red flag. Plus how does he treat people or animals who are of no 'use' to him?"
"If they are evasive about you meeting their family and friends, they might be married. If they are evasive about giving you their address/work details, only ever wants to come to your house, evades personal questions generally, and just grills you for info, they might be married."
"One thing I would advise is that if there is something which your instinct tells you is wrong, then don't ignore it. There were so many things about my first ex which my instinct told me were wrong, but I chose to ignore them - big mistake."
"Just see how things go. Don't anticipate the future. Keep seeing your other friends and keep up with your interests."
This one's tricky as if a potential partner talks about their former partners excessively, it might mean that they are still not over the relationship. But at the same time, if no former relationships are mentioned, this can also be a red flag to some. It's really about what you feel comfortable with. Here's some wise words from our gransnetters:
"Take your time. See him a couple of times a week and let things develop slowly, look at his relationships with family/friends etc. I'm always keen to know about relationship history too - I think that's really telling. I dated someone once who when talking about ex-girlfriends, always put the 'blame' on them!"
"Look for him asking about YOU rather than just talking about himself. And yes, note whether he talks of his ex-partner(s) with respect rather than being vicious about them. (Unless of course there was a really valid reason for viciousness!) Take things slowly but don't deny yourself a chance of happiness."
While dating might sound a little scary with so many things to think about and to watch out for, it really can be quite a revelation. Many of our gransnetters have not only found love and companionship online, but have gone on to marry or remarry. You might just make a few friends for life along the way too.
"If your instinct and common sense tell you that they're a good 'un, then go with it. They're not all monsters, there are some good guys out there and go with it. Enjoy your new relationship and have fun!"
"Internet dating is incredibly fun. You get to talk to all sorts of people, and not only did I meet my husband but I also made some wonderful friends."
"Like myself, my husband was bereaved after a long and happy marriage. We feel really lucky to have found such happiness again."
Granted, online dating is very different to what you might term 'organic dating', i.e. offline dating, and it may feel like an unusual way to meet someone, particularly if your previous relationships successfully blossomed during the pre-internet days. So why is online dating so popular, especially among those over the age of 50?
Many have found a certain level of comfort in attempting to find love or companionship online, something that can be invaluable following a divorce or the loss of a spouse. If you've been married or cohabiting for a number of years and suddenly find yourself without a partner, you may wish to meet someone new. This can seem overwhelming at first, which is why many seek solace in engaging with others behind the smokescreen of a laptop, tablet or mobile phone.
"One of my friends met several older gentlemen through online dating sites after her husband died. She had platonic relationships with a couple of them, eventually becoming cruise companions! I thought it brave and she enjoyed the company."
Online dating can be quite an attractive option for older daters as you have complete control over your online profile, the type of people you search for and engage with online, how you engage with them (including the steps before meeting someone) and when and where you finally meet.
"Dating sites give you the opportunity to correspond with and find out more about the other person to see if you have anything in common before you meet them. I have been very lucky and am now married to a man who is kind, caring and has a brilliant sense of humour."
Online dating is also a good choice for those who are lonely and those who aren't able to get out and about easily, whether it's due to health issues, a disability or even location.
"I had realised that, through circumstance, I didn't have opportunities to meet people so this was a very good choice for me."
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