Story and photos by NICHOLE BUTTERS
In a perfect fairytale ending, a young couple falls in love and lives happily ever after. But what happens in real life, when that young couple can’t be together forever?
Many people ages 50 and older are finding themselves in this exact situation. Some have lost their first love, others have gone through divorce, some have never found the one to share their life with. Now that they have to face their lives alone, many seniors are returning to the dating scene.
Tom Rogerson, 67, is once again an eligible bachelor and is more confident now than ever. Having gone through divorce years ago, he is ready to find that one special person.
“It’s not any harder to get dates now than it used to be,” said Rogerson, who lives in Salt Lake City. “We still go to social events, like church and group dates. There are a lot of people looking to meet someone that are my age, which makes it easy for double dates to be set up. I’m more prepared now, because I know better whom I’m compatible with.”
The dating scene today is much different than it was even five years ago. Through social media, online dating websites and apps for smart phones that help people connect with others in the area, singles across the country at every age are able to connect more than ever before.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 40 million American use online dating services. Match.com recently reported that users age 50 and older make up the dating website’s fastest- growing segment of users, with a 300 percent increase since 2000. In its recent poll, 75 percent of women and 81 percent of men in their 50s experience a serious, exclusive relationship after a divorce.
Still, some prefer the old-fashioned style of dating.
“Back then, there was no Facebook, no social media,” Rogerson said. “People have different ways of meeting others now, but I still do it the same way I always have. I feel weary of social media and dating websites, mostly because that’s not what I’m used to. But I’ve known many people who have used them and had a lot of success.”
Whatever method that is used to find companionship, blending families, finances and lifestyles together are all aspects to keep in mind when starting a new relationship. Rogerson said it’s easier the second time around.
“I know the positives and negatives of dating and relationships now,” Rogerson said. “I know what to look out for, and because I’ve gone through a divorce I understand that a relationship is never one-sided. The advantage of being older is that I know a lot of people! I don’t have to please anyone, and there’s a certain comfort level where we can just be ourselves. It makes the dating scene so much easier.”
Many assume that people age 50 or older have given up on dating altogether. However, Peter Hebertson, information and referral program manager with Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services, said not to jump to conclusions. “Never stereotype these generations,” he said. “Seniors are not just grumpy old people. They still have the same desires, dreams and goals that we do.”
Through his experience working directly with older adults, Hebertson has found that they are just as passionate about life as are young people. “The older you get, the more you feel 18.”
While many singles enjoy a laid back dating scene, others look for online opportunities. Currently, many dating websites are specially designed just for singles ages 50 and above, such as Dating for Seniors, OurTime.com, SeniorMatch, Senior FriendFinder, and FindSeniorsOnly.com.
Vicki Ericksen, 52, knows firsthand what it’s like to date later in life. After three divorces and several failed attempts to meet others her age, she finally turned to LDSSingles.com, a Christian dating website for members of the LDS faith. “The men I met before always had façades, masks and lies to make themselves look good. They were like gum on your shoe. I was tired of being hurt, used and cheated on,” Ericksen said.
After hesitantly signing up for the site’s free trial, Ericksen uploaded a picture and simple description of herself. “I was looking for my future,” she said.
In November 2011, Ericksen met her boyfriend. They have been inseparable ever since. “I felt the sparks fly, and I still do,” she said. “I just love him.”
Ericksen is now an advocate of online dating. “I’m all for it. It gives you a chance to reflect before you act,” she said. “I chose the site, I had control. I feel it is better to use this method.”
No matter which method is used, Erickson is first and foremost a believer in finding love, even at an older age. “True love does exist,” she said. “It is a beautiful journey. There are ups and downs, but when they look in your eyes with that love, that’s when you know it’s real.”