All Tech Considered
3:21 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

ISO Romance: Dating Sites Help Older Singles

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 6:01 pm

With nearly 40 percent of Americans over 50 single and many looking for love online, dating sites are catering to this fast-growing market.

Vicki Cherco, 58, of Libertyville, Ill., uses one called OurTime.com. Her most recent date went well. "He was good-looking and funny and nice and thoughtful and paid for everything and asked for my phone number and said he'd like to call me again," she says.

Even though the site caters to older adults, in Cherco's experience, not all of her dates act that mature. For example, there was her first — and only — date with a French man who noticed her rubbing her sore arm. "And he told me that he does really, really good massages and I should just come over to his house right now and he would give me a nice massage and in the morning we could have champagne and chocolate," she says. "And I'm like hold on, mister! I don't even know your last name." She opted for an early night and some Advil.

Cherco, who's divorced, started dating through online sites a few years ago after her son was grown and she'd had no luck with meeting a man through work, at the gym or at church. So her sister-in-law suggested online dating and chipped in a little advice, suggesting Cherco have a thick skin and a sense of humor and try to just have fun.

All online dating can really do is "help you set up a first date," says Sam Yagan, the CEO of the Match Group. The company owns OurTime, the site that Cherco uses, plus Match.com, BlackPeopleMeet.com and OkCupid, a site he co-founded. Match owns about 30 percent of the online dating universe. It's a $2 billion industry and it's growing. A big part of that, Yagan says, is people age 50 and up. "It is the fastest-growing part of the market," he says.

That wouldn't surprise online dater Aaron Baum, 54. "I mean, it's staggering the number of people who are single in the age range I'm looking to meet people in," Baum says.

Baum, who lives in Los Angeles, met his ex-wife on JDate, which caters to Jewish singles. They were married for 6 1/2 years. When the marriage ended, Baum dived back into the dating pool. This time he's trying OkCupid, best known for asking users about a zillion questions when they set up a profile. "They have to do with your ethics, your thoughts on sexuality, your political beliefs," Baum says.

And so much more. "There was one question. It had to do with If your lover asked you to squeal like a dolphin, would you?" he says. "And I thought, sure, why not?"

It may sound silly, but Baum really liked the exercise of filling out the profile. But for those who would rather not answer a zillion questions, there's an option run by AARP. It's a partnership with an online dating site called How About We, as in "How about we go to the concert in the park on Sunday?"

"Automatically that gives us something in common," says Sami Hassanyeh, AARP's chief digital officer. "It's sort of an icebreaker."

AARP, he says, got into the dating business in 2012 because it was part of its social mission to help people avoid isolation and to encourage social interactions.

Hassanyeh says there are about 50,000 people signed up for the AARP site. That's not a lot, but many older daters use more than one service.

You need to improve the odds, Baum says. "You need to meet a lot of people sometimes before you find the right person," he says. "These online sites give you that opportunity. It's literally a numbers game."

When you're older, Cherco says, you realize that there's no time to waste. "Life is short," she says. "What if I only live to be 70? I don't want to live the last 10 years of my life alone."

She wants what most older online daters want: find the right person — sooner rather than later — and get off of the online dating sites altogether.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. Yesterday on the program, we explored why divorce rates for Americans over age 50 have doubled in the past 20 years. Well, today, we have a follow-up on baby boomers and Internet dating. It turns out that 40 percent of Americans over 50 are now single and whether they never married, are widowed or divorced, many of them are looking for love online.

NPR's Ina Jaffe covers aging. She has this report.

INA JAFFE, BYLINE: Fifty-eight year old Vicki Cherco had a date the night before we spoke. It went well.

VICKI CHERCO: He was good-looking and funny and nice and thoughtful and paid for everything and asked for my phone number and said he'd like to call me again. I had a great time.

JAFFE: He even lives fairly close to her home in Libertyville, Illinois. She met him on a dating website called OurTime.

CHERCO: It's people more my age, you know, mature 50 whatever, you know.

JAFFE: Which doesn't mean everyone acts mature. There was her date with this guy.

CHERCO: Very attractive French man who was very charming.

JAFFE: And he noticed her rubbing her sore arm.

CHERCO: And he told me that he does really, really good massages and I should just come over to his house right now and he would give me a nice massage and in the morning we could have champagne and chocolate. And I'm like hold on, mister. I don't even know your last name. I think I'll just take some Advil and that'll be that.

JAFFE: Cherco, who's divorced, started dating through online websites a few years ago after her son was grown and she'd had no luck with the conventional methods.

CHERCO: Meet somebody at work, meet somebody at the gym, meet somebody at church.

JAFFE: So her sister-in-law said she should try dating online and chipped in a little advice.

CHERCO: Have a thick skin, have a sense of humor, just roll with it and just have fun.

SAM YAGAN: The reality is that online dating, all we do is we just help you set up a first date.

JAFFE: That's Sam Yagan, the CEO of the Match Group. The company owns OurTime, the site that Vicki Cherco uses, plus Match.com and BlackPeopleMeet and OkCupid, a site he co-founded. In fact, Match owns about 30 percent of the online dating universe. That's a $2 billion industry and growing. Sam Yagan says a big part of that is people age 50 and up.

YAGAN: It is the fastest-growing part of the market. It is a huge part of the market.

AARON BAUM: I mean, it's staggering the number of people who are single in sort of the age range that I'm looking to meet people in.

JAFFE: That's 54-year-old Aaron Baum of Los Angeles. He's been a successful online dater in the past and that he met his ex-wife on JDate, which caters to Jewish singles.

BAUM: I think were a success story. We were married for six and a half years.

JAFFE: But when that ended, Baum dove back into the dating pool. This time he's trying the site OkCupid, known for trying to match users by asking them around a zillion questions.

BAUM: They have to do with your ethics, your thoughts on sexuality, your political beliefs.

JAFFE: And so much more.

BAUM: There was one question. It had to do with if your lover asked you to squeal like a dolphin, would you? And I thought, sure, why not?

JAFFE: Why would they even ask that? OK. What do I know? I haven't dated in a long time.

BAUM: I don't know. Maybe it's a turn on for some people.

JAFFE: It may sound silly, but Baum really liked the exercise of filling out the profile. But for those who would rather not answer a zillion questions, there's an option run by the AARP. It's a partnership with an online dating site called How About We, as in how about we go to the concert in the park on Sunday?

SAMI HASSANYEH: And automatically that gives us something in common. It's sort of an icebreaker.

JAFFE: Says Sami Hassanyeh the AARP's chief digital officer. He says the organization got into the dating business in 2012 because it was part of their social mission.

HASSANYEH: Helping people avoid isolation, build social interactions and providing expert advice to help you get back in the dating game.

JAFFE: Hassanyeh says that right now, there are only about 50,000 people signed up for the AARP site. That's not a lot, but many older daters use more than one service. You need to improve the odds, says Aaron Baum.

BAUM: You need to meet a lot of people sometimes before you find the right person or who you consider a match. Well, these online sites give you that opportunity. It's literally a numbers game.

JAFFE: Because when you're older, you realize that there's no time to waste, says Vicki Cherco.

CHERCO: Life is short and what if I only live to be 70? And I don't want to live the last 10 years of my life alone.

JAFFE: She wants what most older online daters want: find the right person, sooner rather than later, and get off of the online dating sites altogether. Ina Jaffe, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Related Program