If magic exists, we see it most clearly when two people connect and fall in love. You can help make that magic happen. Put yourself out there, join in, take chances, accept invitations, and ask for help.
Edith and Andrew met when he tried to organize a hiking club. She was the only one who showed up. As they explored local trails, they also learned a lot about each other. Edith found the man she’d always wanted, and they’ve been married for two years now.
Debbie and Mike met because their adult daughters were friends. The girls felt their parents might be perfect for each other, so they set up a blind “date”—dinner for four, with daughters included in case the conversation needed help. It went well, and they’ve been married for 15 years.
Michelle met her last long-term partner through Match.com, and she’s a fan of online dating. “I would say it’s a numbers game,” she says. “I’m going to put myself out there and do things that I wouldn’t do alone.”
Match is the oldest and largest of the online dating sites, but there are many others. Some are aimed specifically at older adults, such as Our Time, Silver Singles, AARP Dating, and Senior Match. They’re all a little different. eHarmony, which caters to all ages, offers automated matchmaking; users are sent matches based on the extensive profile information they’re asked to provide. Senior Match offers safety tips. Silver Singles focuses on well-educated professionals. AARP Dating is a good resource if you haven’t dated in a while, with tips on planning your date, what to say, and relationship advice.
Signing up for a dating site involves creating a profile, generally guided by a questionnaire, and providing at least one photo. Membership fees vary. Once signed up, you’ll communicate directly with possible dates. Before you pick a service, look for reviews of various sites, and ask friends if they’ve tried any they’d recommend.
The drawback to online dating is, of course, that success depends on honesty from participants—and we all know that online profiles are not always what they seem. Be safety conscious and careful with personal information you share, at least at first. Meet dates in a public place and limit alcohol consumption. Michelle’s particular safety tip is to ask for your date’s number, then use *67 to block yours until you get to know him.
Many people have had good relationships, including marriage, through online dating, and at least you might have some interesting experiences. Michelle has been on kayaking and mountain climbing dates, things she might otherwise not have done. And she’s currently in a relationship, not with someone she met online, but with a man who was a friend of her last online match. It’s all about connections.
Then there are matchmakers. These organizations use modern techniques to practice the ancient art of creating couples. In general, they offer personalized service to connect people within their client bases; some even set up the first date. They can be great for busy people, or anyone who needs extra help navigating the dating world. They’re also good for people who appreciate working with a real person.
Matchmaking is Ali Migliore’s dream career. She and her husband Matt own Simply Matchmaking, the Seattle-based firm she started in 2005. “People who are ready, and are serious about finding a committed relationship, are the ones who come to us,” she says. I asked her to walk me through their process.
It starts with an in-person meeting, where Ali’s team and the client discuss their services. Next, there’s a discovery session with one of the matchmakers. You’ll spend an hour or so talking about your relationship history, education, work, lifestyle, places you like to go, things you like to do, and the qualities you care about in a potential partner, including deal breakers. For the matchmaker, this is also a time to pick up on your nonverbal traits.
“Eye contact, body language, sense of humor, shy or bubbly and outgoing—we take note of all those things. Energy and personality are being noticed,” Ali says. So when clients are being matched, it’s not only that they’re a fit on paper, but “it also includes a feelingour matchmakers get that these two people are really going to hit it off.”
And that’s where magic can happen. “It’s just the coolest thing when someone comes in and we find a connection right away,” Ali adds.
Privacy and security are top concerns, so entering a client into the service involves some research, in addition to the initial interview. The first date is choreographed for ease and safety. A match is arranged, and with agreement from both of you, Simply Matchmaking sets up the time, date, and location for coffee or a drink. Reservations are made under Ali’s name, and you’ll have each other’s first names. You’ll be asked NOT to exchange contact information on that first date, and to report back to your matchmaker within 24 hours about what you liked or didn’t like, whether you’d be open to a second date, and whether you’d like to hear any feedback from the other person. This is to avoid any drama if only one of you wants to get together again. If both of you are interested, your matchmaker will provide a phone number to set up a second date.
There are multiple matchmaking services available, with varying services, approaches, and pricing. Any that are worth considering will be happy to answer any questions you have about what they offer and what they can and can’t promise.
Now, maybe you’d like to try just meeting people the way Edith and Andrew did, through shared interests and activities. It’s still about numbers and connection, and that can be more difficult as we age. You could look for people with similar interests at meetup.com or in Facebook groups. And there are companies like Events and Adventures that organize activities every month for members, sometimes for a fairly hefty fee. A new player in this area is Stitch.net, an international online community for people over 50. Founder Andrew Dowling’s goal is to “improve the lives of older adults in every country around the world…whether they’re seeking friendship, romance, or anything in between.”
Stitch’s volunteer “community champions” lead the effort to organize events and activities locally, plan group travel opportunities, and help people sign up. (Dowling, as well as Stitch’s paid tech team, is based in Sydney, Australia.) There are three levels of membership; the first is free and the others available for a low annual rate. Members connect online to talk, find out about activities, and make friends. It’s about companionship, with the possibility of dating.
Stitch is just getting started in the Seattle area, but sign-ups have begun. As Dowling says, “We’re social beings, and if we don’t have people to do things with, life just isn’t as fun.” Many of us would probably agree. So get out there.
Priscilla Charlie Hinckley has been a writer and producer in Seattle television and video for 35 years, with a primary interest in stories covering health and medicine, women’s and children’s issues, social justice, and education. She enjoys taking a light-hearted approach to serious topics.