Sexy seniors on the Web

Online dating sites for the older set are booming

“Have you ever texted a sexy message or racy photo of yourself,” read a recent online poll, inviting participants to respond with five answers ranging from “Frequently, it’s fun” to “Are you kidding?”

This poll wouldn’t seem out of place on any number of magazine, lifestyle, or even teen sites, but its source might surprise some: It’s on the official website of the AARP, the now acronym-only organization formerly known as the American Association of Retired People.

An entire section of the AARP homepage is dedicated to Love and Sex, where the poll can be found alongside articles with titles like “Looking to add a little sizzle to your love life?” and “100-year-old bride,” a Long Term Care Calculator application, and an ad for a “Lifestyle Lift” free info kit with the tagline, “Don’t live with unattractive signs of aging.”

It’s likely some younger people might balk at the idea of recognizing older individuals as sexual beings, but it raises the question, “Why?” It’s perfectly logical that people at all ages desire emotional and physical connection, and people today are living longer, healthier lives. And though the young tend to view older generations as having come of age in more puritanical times, it’s obviously a myth when we realize people in their sexual prime during 1967’s Summer of Love, an era marked by the rejection of traditional values and sexual mores, are now septuagenarians.

This reality is at least partially reflected in the weekly AARP poll. Out of more than 13,000 respondents—presumably within the site’s target audience of people 50 and older—about 33 percent admitted to sexting. Another nearly 8 percent responded, “I’m low tech.” This, for some, might enhance the stereotype of the sexless, technically un-savvy senior.

AARP obviously isn’t buying that, nor are a slew of websites catering to seniors seeking love, sex and relationships. A Google search for “senior dating” reveals dozens of online matchmakers. Big names like eHarmony and have sections devoted to seniors, and there are dozens of other sites exclusively for people over 50, such as Silver Singles and Our Time. Last year, AARP partnered with existing service How About We to create its own offering, AARP Dating.

Leonard, a 68-year old local man who three years ago found himself separated from his wife of nearly 40 years, said going online is one of the few options available to older daters. Following a suggestion from a friend, he began using Our Time, and said he specifically chose a site dedicated to older daters: “I don’t really want to meet 20 year olds, because it’s just not realistic.

“When you’re my age, going out to the bar scene and doing the things you did when you were younger is not the best option,” said Leonard, whose name was changed in this story to protect his privacy. “I’ve tried it, but it’s not something I really felt comfortable with and isn’t an environment I’m used to.

“It took some time to figure out,” Leonard said of his foray into online dating. “I didn’t realize when I started, but when you see profiles you have to pay attention to where they live. It’s flattering when someone finds you attractive and enjoys talking, but it’s not practical if they live in Texas.”

Leonard eventually did meet a few local women for coffee dates. “That’s the nice thing about meeting online, you have seen each other’s pictures and you’ve had a few conversations already before you agree to meet.

“If you like them you can meet them again, and if not it’s not a big deal,” Leonard said. He said only one of his meetings, with a woman from outside of his preferred range, was “not worth driving back to Roseville for.”

Aside from one sub-par date, Leonard said his online experiences have mostly been good. Even if love connections aren’t made, he said he is still interested in the social opportunities, which he explained are harder to find later in life.

“When you’re married for as long as I was, your whole social life and identity revolves around being a couple,” he said. “You have to find what’s left of you, and it’s challenging to get to know yourself all over again while putting yourself out there to be open to other people.”

Leonard said he enjoys dating and, like many other older daters, has different objectives than younger daters might: “It’s not like when you’re young and looking for someone to build a life with; the motivation isn’t necessarily to get married and have a family, because people at my age have already done that.

“The motivation is more to enjoy your social life. I’m looking for companionship, and that can come in a lot of ways. It can be two people sharing experiences and traveling together, or just finding someone to have a glass of wine, watch a movie with and share the intimacy that might develop.”