Dating in later life
As we get older, we still have a need for closeness and companionship. Many older people find themselves newly single, or simply decide now’s the time to find a partner.
Whether you’re separated, bereaved, or have been single for some time, it’s never too late to start a new relationship.
How do I know I’m ready to start dating?
It’s not unusual to feel lonely, particularly if you’ve just lost a partner or decided to go your separate ways. You may have more free time and want to share that time with somebody, or you may miss having physical contact.
But the thought of meeting someone new can feel daunting, especially if you’ve spent years in the same relationship or been on your own for a long time.
Moving on from a previous relationship
If you’re newly single, it may mean coming to terms with the end of your previous relationship. Everyone responds differently to the end of a relationship, but it’s important to give yourself time and support to process your feelings.
Coping with the loss of a partner
If you’ve been bereaved, you may need to give yourself a chance to adjust to what has happened. See our pages on bereavement for more information about coping with loss.
Where can I meet new people?
Once you feel ready to think about a new relationship you may be wondering where to begin.
At the moment, some of the suggestions below about meeting people won't be possible. But they are still relevant for when we can meet up with others again. For now, the information below about signing up to online dating websites or apps might be more useful.
Be assured that there are lots of ways you could meet someone. Trying new activities or volunteering is a great way to make friends, learn something different and have fun.
You could join:
- a walking group
- a local choir
- a course to learn something new
- a book group.
If you aren't sure what activities are in your area, there are a number of ways you can find this information:
- read the notice boards in your local library, GP surgery, town hall or place of worship.
- take a look in your local paper for listings of activities and local groups.
- check out the adult courses offered by your local council, often they’ll have brochures advertising the different courses - sometimes these may be subsidised or free for older people.
- find volunteering opportunities at your local volunteer centre.
If you don’t feel like these options are for you, you could try:
- meeting people through mutual friends
- signing up for online dating
- placing a personal ad in a local newspaper
Many local newspapers have a personal ads section (sometimes called a ‘lonely hearts’ or ‘would like to meet’) where you can put a short message about yourself and what type of person you would like to meet. People can then contact you if they are interested in getting in touch. Your personal contact details aren't included in the ad so it’s quite safe and you can choose who you reply to if people get in contact.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to meet someone right away. It won't happen overnight, but keeping active and staying positive will help you to enjoy this time
How do I sign up to online dating websites?
Online dating is now one of the most common ways to meet a partner and some dating sites are aimed specifically at older people.
Step 1: Find a website that suits you
There are lots of dating websites to try. Plenty of specialist sites cater to specific interests or backgrounds, such as faith or ethnicity. Most dating websites can be used to find a lesbian, gay, or bisexual partner, but there are also specific LGBT dating sites as well.
Step 2: Register on the website
Some dating websites let you register for free while others may require monthly or yearly fees. Check out a few different websites before choosing one to try. You could also sign up to several at once.
Step 3: Create a profile
For most dating websites you’ll need to create a personal profile, which other users will be able to view. You can put up a photo, write about your interests, and indicate what type of person you’d like to meet. The more information you include, the easier it is for people to see what you are like and whether you might be a good match.
To put a photo online you need a digital camera or a smartphone. If you don't have one, ask a friend or relative if they can help.
Step 4: Start sending messages
Once you’ve set up a profile, you’ll be able to send and receive messages. It can be exciting to find people with similar interests to you and to receive messages and emails from them.
Taking time to exchange messages with someone will help you to work out if you like them enough to arrange a phone call or a face to face meeting. It’s a good idea to speak to someone on the phone a few times before you agree to meet them. This will give you a better idea of their personality and whether or not you might be a good match.
Just remember there’s no rush - take your time to be sure it feels right before you get serious with someone.
Staying safe using dating sites
Online dating is generally very safe. It can be easy to throw caution to the wind when getting caught up in the excitement of dating, but there are some basic safety precautions you should take:
- When you’re meeting someone for the first time, meet them in a public place such as a café.
- Always tell somebody where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
- You could agree a system with a friend or relative where they call or text you at a certain time during the meeting to check you’re OK.
- Don’t accept a lift from the person, go home with them, or take them to your home until you’re sure about them.
Avoiding online dating fraud
Online dating fraud is on the rise and unfortunately scams can take place. A common scam involves the new partner trying to get money, perhaps by telling a hard luck story, or asking for money to come and visit. There are also fraudsters who want to enter into relationships for immigration purposes to gain access to the UK.
To ensure you don’t fall for a scam:
- Be careful with your personal information - never give your full name and address or other personal details to someone until you’re sure you can trust them.
- Be aware of the warning signs - for example if the conversation becomes personal very quickly, if they mention money, or if they ask for information such as your full name, address and birth date.
- See our online scams advice for more information.
If you are ever in doubt about someone you could also report the person to the dating website. They can block them or bar them from the site if they are acting inappropriately or trying to scam people.
Dating if you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender
If you’re looking to meet a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) partner, or just want to meet new people, you could try Stonewall’s website to find community groups for older LGBT people in your area. Most dating websites can be used to find same-sex as well as opposite sex partners.
If you’ve started to have feelings towards people of your own gender for the first time, or perhaps you haven’t felt free to express your sexuality before, you may find it helpful to talk to someone about how you feel. You can call the LGBT+ Switchboard, a national helpline where you can get advice and support from trained volunteers. They also have details of local groups around the UK if you want to find a social group or some local support.
See our pages for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people for more information about planning for later life.
We all want different things from relationships, so don't make any assumptions about what your partner is looking for. At first it can be hard to tell if they're looking for a casual relationship or a more serious commitment - and you may not be sure of exactly what you want.
There's no magic way of knowing if your relationship will go the distance, but if you have a discussion about what you are hoping for in the future you can see if your expectations match up.
Things you might need to discuss as your relationship progresses could be:
- do you both want a sexual relationship?
- will you live together or separately?
- are you both interested in getting married?
Talk to your friends and family
Take some time to explain to your family how you feel and why you want to start a new relationship. You might also find that your friends and family aren't keen for you to start dating.
This can be especially true of grown up children who may feel that their other parent is being replaced. Then again, it’s common for grown-up children to feel quite relieved that you’ve found a new partner, especially if they can see your new-found happiness.