Today’s computer-savvy seniors are taking chances at finding love – or at least friendship and companionship – online.
Online dating websites such as PlentyofFish.com, eHarmony.com and Match.com provide opportunities for single seniors 50+ to introduce themselves and chat right from the safety and privacy of home. Even the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has gotten into the act, launching dating.aarp.org as a service to its senior members.
A recent AARP survey revealed that seniors embracing online dating do it to meet a broader range of people than they would otherwise. Some active seniors say they simply have no time to meet potential dates through traditional means. It is the perfect way to check out opportunities without making a face-to-face commitment. Many say they tried meeting online because a friend or family member encouraged them to give it a go.
That was the case with Barbara Moore of Murrells Inlet. A retired social worker, Moore found herself being the “odd person” at gatherings after her husband passed away in 2008.
“A couple of years ago, I went online simply because my daughter in California kept after me,” Moore said. “She had met a nice man online, but I felt I was too old and I had my freedom, so she said just use it for comic relief.”
A very active woman in her 70s, Moore said she fudged a bit about her age when she developed her profile, listing it as 69. She also kidded with her neighbors that she wanted to meet a man with hair.
“They told me that was not fair, but I figured I really didn’t need to meet anybody,” she said. “Other times, I’d see couples holding hands while I was volunteering at the [Huntington Beach State] park and thought it would be nice to have someone special. Some people envied me because I could travel and do what I wanted, but at night, when I closed my door, I was alone. When you are alone, it’s a totally different ballgame.”
Moore started meeting people, always keeping safety in mind. Not all dates went great. While on a second dinner date with one man, Moore said an attractive woman walked by. As he watched her pass, Moore said he looked at her and said he really wanted a “sexy vixen.”
“I just laughed it off and figured that’s the end of this,” she said.
Meeting Mr. Right
In June 2014, things changed for Moore when she connected with a New Jersey transplant to Sunset Beach, N.C., named Bud Sherman.
Widowed since 2012, Sherman first tried ChristianMingle.com before switching to Match.com. Over a six-month period, he “favored” a couple of women, met them and determined they were not good matches.
“After 47 years, I was kind of inexperienced at dating,” Sherman said. “I didn’t know what I wanted, so I went through profiles and picked by looks before going deeper. I favored Barb, a bright-looking, pretty woman, and in doing so, it started.”
Moore had posted that she was not looking for a man whose idea of fun was sitting in front of the television. She lied about her age, she said, because she wanted someone with a young outlook on life.
“When she first met me, I was that guy, battling cookies and wine in front of the TV,” Sherman said. “I was an active businessman, but after I retired, it kind of stopped. But now, I’m interested in being active again.”
Over the next year, the couple’s relationship grew. With Moore, Sherman found himself biking, dancing and even going to the gym, which has helped him lose 17 pounds.
While Sherman has found Moore’s “get up and get going” lifestyle far busier than his previous life, he has embraced it with a smile.
“I was in a funk. My whole demeanor changed with Barb,” he said. “I dance with feeling now.”
Starting life together
Getting to know each other over the past year included introducing themselves to each other’s children. While they both agreed they did not need their children’s permission, they hoped everyone would be happy for them. Some were opinionated, they said, concerned that their parents not be taken advantage of. Sherman said one of Moore’s sons, however, approached him and said, “I’m glad you are with my mom.”
The couple may have met in a rather nontraditional way, but their wedding was to be traditional down the line. The celebration was set for July 11 with a church wedding at Belin Memorial United Methodist Church in Murrells Inlet with children and grandchildren present and participating, and a dinner/dance after.
After a happy marriage to his first love, Sherman, at age 72, said he is starting a completely new life with Moore.
“It’s a new beginning,” he said. “I loved my wife, but all of a sudden this woman came along and something just clicked, and I realized I loved this woman. I thought, wholly mackerel how can this happen.”
Moore, admitting her true age of 77, said, “When you get to this stage of life, time is very precious to you. I really hope I’m smart enough now to make each day the best … God is smiling down on both of us. I don’t know if I deserve it all, but I’m at a point in life I feel very fortunate and very blessed.”
Fishing for mates
For Anne Fisher Wood and Larry Wood, it was PlentyofFish.com (POF) that brought them to the altar. Each had lost their long-time spouse to illness in 2006.
Larry was coaxed by a friend to try some online match sites and found that PlentyofFish.com allowed him to email a person of interest free of charge. Widowed for six years, Anne had attended a few social groups around Myrtle Beach and had been on POF for only a few months when she decided it simply was not working for her.
Then she looked at Larry’s bio and photo, and everything changed. A friendship developed through email.
“We talked three or four times and decided to meet,” Larry said. “Anne kept shooing away the waitress so we could talk. I found our lives paralleled in so many ways.”
In addition to having been caregivers for a loved one with a terminal illness, the couple each has female grandchildren, and ironically, both their mother’s names were Ruth. They are both 68 years old – he’s older by three months, she notes with a laugh – and they both love to travel and stay active. Anne enjoys ocean cruises, something Larry is familiar with from his Navy days.
Larry still recalls his first real date with Anne. He had to pick her up at a retirement home where she had been literally living in the closet of her 93-year-old father’s room since returning to the area from Oregon where her son lives.
After dating two years, Larry made his move to ask for her hand in marriage.
“Her dad was a retired, full-bird colonel,” Larry said. “I was kind of shaking in my shoes, but he was one of the nicest people.”
“He was going to do it the Frank Sinatra way, do it his way,” Anne said of the proposal. He proposed on Valentine’s Day, sent her flowers and suggested they get married on Sept. 28, the anniversary of the day they met.
Plans were made for a beach wedding, and arrangements were in motion to bring her dad to the ceremony. Unfortunately, he died in April before the big event.
Anne and Larry married last year on Sept. 28 with six children and five grandchildren in attendance, along with other family and friends.
“They all got along beautifully,” Anne said. “They were very much in agreement that they were happy we were getting married.”
Finding love online
Both couples found that keeping an open mind when seeking to meet someone online is important. Finding someone you are compatible with may not lead to marriage, but it can lead to lasting friendship and companionship, helping to erase some of the loneliness of aging alone.
They also advise that safety is a big concern and recommend always meeting in a public place where there are many people, such as at a restaurant. It is important to let someone close to you know where you are going and whom you are meeting, they said.
Moore, who developed and occasionally teaches “Who Am I Now That I’m a Widow” through Coastal Carolina University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, said she stresses common-sense safety. One example, she said, is meeting for lunch during daylight and then noticing what vehicle the individual gets into and observing how far that vehicle stays behind you after pulling out of the parking lot.
Noting that not every meeting will end with a second date, Moore said it is important to let the other person know right away and in a nice way if they appear to want a relationship and you do not.
Anne’s advice when meeting someone new is to “just appreciate each other and enjoy each day.”
With that open-mindedness and a shared love of cruises, Larry said together, he and Anne plan to “see the world one week at a time.”
ANGELA NICHOLAS is a freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top five senior dating picks of 2015
▪ Zoosk | best for matchmaking
▪ OurTime | best for mature singles
▪ Match.com | singles seeking most matches
▪ eHarmony | marriage-minded singles
▪ PlentyOfFish | singles seeking relationships
– Provided by ConsumerRankings.com