Exploring dating habits and sentiments of singles over 50
- Of the singles over 50 that we surveyed, 44% are not looking for a relationship, while 42% are interested in dating.
- Over 24% of respondents are sexually active, and almost half of them have had unprotected sex with a new partner.
- The biggest dating deal breakers for singles over 50 are smoking, financial insecurity, and refusing to take the pandemic seriously.
Like a Fine Wine: Dating Over 50
Nobody likes to get their heart broken, but growing up, dating can have tremendously positive benefits – including building social confidence, developing personal identity, learning about intimacy, and establishing meaningful relationships. Not all love stories last forever though, and for this reason, we’re taking a look at the dating landscape of people over 50.
In a survey of over 1,000 singles over 50 in the United States, we asked about respondents’ dating preferences and habits. At this point in their life, are they looking to settle down or just partake in a casual fling? What exactly are they looking for in a partner, and what are some of the deal breakers that would dissuade them from pursuing a relationship with someone? We’ll also take a closer look into the topic of sex, and how the pandemic has affected intimacy. Read on to find out more!
On the Lookout for Love
What kind of relationship are respondents looking for, and how do they want to meet people?
Of the surveyed respondents, 42% were interested in getting back into the dating game. Of those, 29% were looking for a serious relationship, while 13% were looking for something more casual. Of the adults who were not interested in dating, the majority were in their 70s.
In terms of meeting potential partners, respondents were pretty evenly split regarding their preferred methods. Being set up by family or friends was only slightly more desirable than online dating or meeting organically through a mutual hobby. The most preferred websites and apps among respondents were Match.com, Plenty of Fish, and eHarmony. The least desirable method was using mobile dating apps – only 16.1% preferred it. This is despite the online dating app industry having picked up steam recently, with a projected worth of just north of $5.7 billion by 2025 in comparison to a $3.3 billion projection for 2021.
Let’s find out what people look for in a companion.
Generally, respondents were comfortable dating people who weren’t the same age as them. The biggest acceptable difference in age was for men, who would date someone 13 years younger than themselves. Women, on the other hand, were comfortable with a potential partner being up to eight years younger. The most important aspect of dating, according to 74.7% of respondents, was being with someone who’s a good conversationalist. While important for both genders, women favored this quality slightly more than men.
Interestingly, men valued a lot of the intimacy-related factors more than women did – there were large discrepancies in importance for aspects such as physical attraction, sex, a casual friends with benefits scenario, and one-night stands. Studies have shown that men’s sex drives are generally higher and more consistent than women’s, which could explain why the aforementioned factors were more important to them.
Dating Tips, According to Singles Over 50
Find someone who makes you laugh – 61.6%
Be yourself – 61.1%
Be honest about what you want from the relationship – 58.1%
Trust your gut – 54.3%
Enjoy being single – 51.7%
Sex doesn’t always equal love – 45.6%
Move on if you disagree on big issues (marriage, kids, religion, etc.) – 43.1%
Aside from the intimate side of things, over 60% of respondents believed that the most important dating advice was to find somebody who makes you laugh and to simply be yourself. Over half of them also advised being honest about what you want out of a relationship, trusting your gut, and learning to enjoy being single. Less than half commented that sex and love don’t always come hand in hand, and roughly 43% recommended leaving a relationship behind if partners disagree on major issues like marriage, kids, or religion.
And for That Reason, I’m Out
Let’s assess some red flags that would dissuade our respondents from pursuing a relationship with someone.
The biggest deal breaker, according to just under 58% of respondents, was if the partner in question was a smoker. The next biggest red flag was financial insecurity (51.5%), with women being twice as likely as men to consider it a no-go. Furthermore, many were turned off by those who were not taking the pandemic seriously (47.4%), and once again, women saw this as a bigger deal than men did.
Men deemed physical attractiveness to be more important than women, with 52.9% of them considering a lack of this aspect a deal breaker, compared to 41% of women. That being said, women took much more offense if a man were to lie about his height than men would. While looks can be important to people, there are other things that can make a strong first impression, such as exuding confidence, being friendly, and making the date interesting!
Taking It to the Bedroom
Respondents assessed all things sex, including communication habits and comparisons to their younger selves.
Just under a quarter of respondents said they were sexually active, with almost twice as many men claiming an active sex life than women. While the average number of dates before sex was 5.7, women waited twice as long to “get it on” than men did. The majority of people also openly communicated with their partner about safe sex before doing the deed, and many felt comfortable opening up about their preferences in bed; but 45.9% of respondents had unprotected sex with a new partner anyway. Seeing as 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted infection, it’s probably best to practice safe sex whatever your age!
Our survey also revealed that just under 40% of respondents believed their sex life was better in their 20s and 30s than it is now, with 49.1% of men concurring with this in comparison to only 31.3% of women. Just under a third thought their sex life was better now than it used to be, with 39.6% of women in agreement versus 21.8% of men. The rest felt no difference, regardless of age.
Factoring in the Pandemic
How has COVID-19 shaken up our respondents’ intimate lives, if at all?
Regarding the effect that the pandemic has had on dating, just under 14% of respondents have become more eager to put themselves out there, and almost half said they’re comfortable setting up in-person dates regardless of the vaccination rollout. Nevertheless, video dating has become a popular option among singles around the world. Although once seen as an uncommon tactic, setting up virtual dates may still be a preferred option for many initial meetings even when the pandemic subsides.
All of this being said, over 80% of respondents admitted that they have not had sex with a new partner during the pandemic. Of those that had been sexually active, not many had been COVID-conscious before getting intimate with someone. The most common precaution enforced by respondents was taking a COVID test before having sex, but only about 10% were quarantining before or after, and even less were wearing a mask during sex or taking a COVID test afterward. Over 70% didn’t practice any of these safety procedures in an intimate context.
Stepping Back Into the Scene
Of those who were interested in dating, the majority were looking to settle down and were open to many different ways of meeting people. The most sought-after trait in a partner was good conversation skills, and men were generally more interested in all things intimate, including physical attraction, sex, and one-night stands. Both genders were also open to dating people older or younger than them. On the topic of sex, partners would openly communicate about STDs and sexual health, but many went in unprotected regardless. They also didn’t take many precautions when it came to attempting to negate the spread of COVID-19.
Just under 40% said their sex life was better when they were younger, and this can surely be attributed at least in part to the decline of people’s physical capabilities as they get older. If a lack of energy is preventing you from becoming one of those who report a better sex life now than in their youth, Stannah has solutions, offering premium home stairlift technologies and a variety of lift products for commercial buildings. Don’t let life slow you down – check out what Stannah has in store for you.
This study uses data from a survey of 1,022 singles over 50 located in the U.S. Survey respondents were gathered through the Prolific survey platform where they were presented with a series of questions, including attention-check and disqualification questions. 31.6% of respondents identified as male, while 68.4% identified as female. Respondents ranged in age from 50 to 85 with an average age of 58. Participants incorrectly answering any attention-check question had their answers disqualified. This study has a 3% margin of error on a 95% confidence interval.
Please note that survey responses are self-reported and are subject to issues, such as exaggeration, recency bias, and telescoping.
Fair Use Statement
There’s love out there for everyone. If you know someone who’s trying to jump back into the dating world, feel free to share this article with them. We just ask that you do so for noncommercial use only and that you provide a link back to the original page so contributors can earn credit for their work.