Dating online in the older generations: Love and scams

Photo via The Telegraph

This week’s Age Trivia question asked if older adults were less likely to use technology for dating compared to their younger counterparts. The answer is actually mixed…so yes and no. In recent years, all age groups have steadily increased their online dating activities and found intimate partners (see figure below). Data indicates that 20% of older adults know someone who is in a serious relationship with a person they met online (Smith & Duggan, 2013) while only an estimated 3% have themselves engaged in online dating (Smith & Duggan). Despite the low number of older adults engaged in online dating, older adults who do engage in online dating are more likely to be pursuing marital or intimate relationships compared to their younger counterparts (Stephure, Boon, MacKinnon, & Deveau, 2009).

One possible reason for low participation may be due to a general lack of access to technology or a technology gap that exists between younger and older adults (U.S. Census Bureau, 2017). Still, approximately 67% of individuals over 65 years of age do go online (Anderson & Perrin, 2017) and older adults are ever-increasing their pursuit of online dating (Davis & Fingerman, 2016). One potential challenges for older adults and online dating is creation of online profiles for the purposes of dating (Davis & Fingerman). Online profile descriptions range from discussing social connection to sexual engagement and from work status to socio-emotional motivations (Davis & Fingerman).

Regardless of the motivations for older adults to engage in online dating, there is evidence that older adults are more likely to interact with online dating advertisements than their younger counterparts (Stephure & Boone, 2009; Wada, Clarke, & Rozanova, 2015). Despite the current low estimated number of older adults participating in online dating, it is clear that more will be engaging in online dating as access to technology increases and as the younger older-adults (e.g., Baby Boomers) grow older with higher levels of comfort with technology, it can be anticipated that more older adults will seek intimate connections online.

Photo via Mens Health

There is, however, a dark side to older adults dating online. Scam artists posing as potential intimate partners for older online daters have appeared. There are reports of scammers convincing older adults to send money in the name of love. Be aware that scam artists may try to convince you to leave the site immediately and connect on personal email accounts. Such a request should be an immediate red flag. Scammers also often claim to be traveling or working overseas or even plan to visit you in-person, but is prevented due to a traumatic event or due to a business problem. It is best to never send an online intimate partner money for travel, medical expenses, or for official documents (e.g., travel visas). Click here to learn more about online romance impostor scams.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this week’s Age Trivia. We will have another question for you next week.

References

Anderson, M., & Perrin, A. (2017). Tech adoption climbs among older adults. Pew Research Center. Accessed March, 2019
https://www.pewinternet.org/2017/05/17/tech-adoption-climbs-among-older-adults/

Davis, E.M., & Fingerman, K.L. (2016). Digital dating: Online profile content of older and younger adults. Journal of Gerontology B: Psychological Sciences Social Science, 71(6), 959-967.

Smith, A., & Duggan, M. (2013). Online dating & relationships. Pew Research Center. Access March, 2019
https://www.pewinternet.org/2013/10/21/online-dating-relationships-2/

Stephure, R.J., Boon, S.D., MacKinnon, S.L., & Deveau, V.I. (2009). Internet initiated relationships: Associations between age and involvement in online dating. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 14(3), 658-681.

U.S. Census Bureau (2017). Computer and internet use in the United States: 2015.

Wada, M., Clarke, L.H., & Rozanova, J. (2015). Constructions of sexuality in later life: Analyses of Canadian magazine and newspaper portrayals of online dating. Journal of Aging Studies, 32, 40-49.

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