Romance and companionship are easiest to find when we are young, but opportunities are still there for older folks if you know where to look. The wider you cast your net, the more likely you are to succeed.
The educational system, from high school through university or professional school, brings together large numbers of people who are engaged in similar pursuits. The workplace is a hothouse for romance, though there is often a price to be paid when a relationship tanks and the former lovers must still do a job together.
Partners can often be found in the ranks of single parents shepherding their children through school. Parent-teacher meetings, sporting events, extracurricular activities led by adults, and other family-oriented gatherings of parents are fertile territory.
But if you’re no longer in school, are wary of workplace liaisons, and are not raising children, what then?
As we age out of our twenties and thirties, the search becomes more challenging, especially for women over forty. Highly educated women in their fifties and beyond quickly discover that they outnumber appropriate available men.
Cities are more fertile territory than towns and offer more places where people naturally congregate. In this area as in others, persistence is rewarded!
The best single piece of advice may be to identify and cultivate your interests. A number of hunting grounds merit consideration. What appeals to you?
Bars. Bars, traditionally popular with the younger set, can be a place to meet people especially if they are a hangout for a specialty interest (sports bars, gay bars) and if they offer more for consumption than just alcohol. Any place that features booze, however, will attract alcoholics—not good prospects for a romantic relationship.
Church groups. Church groups can be a good way of meeting people, especially if you are widowed. You can join groups that help sustain the church, such as committees that oversee the tag sale or the holiday craft fair. There may also be discussion groups for the newly divorced, the bereaved, the unemployed, and Bible study. Visit different places of worship to see where you feel at home, then look for to participate in church life.
Community groups. Most communities have organizations for residents trying to influence local development. Apart from Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, and Masons, you may find groups devoted to creating bike paths through town, protesting tax increases or cutbacks in services, or initiating dialogue about controversial topics (race or religion, for instance). There are also often local groups devoted to dancing, public speaking, rock climbing, and other activities.
Continuing education. Most towns offer two- and three-session classes taught in the evenings by locals who have a passion to share or a business to promote. The offerings range from cooking and jewelry-making to advice on investing, ski lessons, and self-improvement. Check out websites of the towns in your area. Course fees are typically small, and classes give you a great way to meet compatible others.
Cultural events. Nowadays museums and art galleries stage social events for publicity and to raise money. Apart from gallery tours and show openings, there are often cocktail hours, craft fairs, workshops meant to increase your knowledge or artistic skill, and outings to places local and foreign. Don’t forget to check the newspapers for plays, movies, and concerts. Free or low-cost cultural opportunities are especially abundant at holiday time.
Friends. Even if your daily life brings you more buddies than flames, don’t despair. Make lots of connections, and let everyone know you are seeking a mate. Friends are, statistically speaking, the best matchmakers of all.
Gyms. If you are exceptionally attractive, the gym may be a good place to scout for prospects, but people sometimes keep to themselves so that future workouts remain stress free. On the other hand, the fitness center is a great place to hang out to make yourself more attractive—and anyone you meet there will be someone who also believes in healthy exercise.
Libraries. Modern libraries often post local happenings on their websites as well as bulletin boards. Book clubs, foreign language clubs, writers’ groups, lectures, how-to events, and town fairs all give you a chance to scope the territory.
Meetup.com. Want a website that rounds up different sorts of activity groups? Go to Meetup.com in your town. There you will find people of all ages doing everything from hiking, quilting, and restaurant hopping to cooking, kayaking, and meditating. Don’t see what you like? For a small fee you can start a special interest group of your own.
Online dating. The main dating sites online—eHarmony, Match, Plenty of Fish, OKCupid, and a host of sites for aging baby boomers—don’t actually provide dating platforms. Instead they offer profiles of people and/or suggest possible matches for you. Some sites are free, and some charge a fee. In addition to the general sites I have mentioned, there are special interest sites for people who are, for instance, pug owners, Jewish, Italian, or brainy. Before signing up, get some good recent pictures of yourself and write a few paragraphs describing yourself and what you are looking for. Have a friend look over your photos and profile. Always use an alias and avoid scams by not giving out personal information (email, phone number, street address) until you know that the other person is honest and above board. Remember, too, that the online dating sites’ claims to matchmaking success are unsubstantiated and their formulas for matching people untested. Even worse, you may not be able to find out how many people in their database are in your age range. Talk to other users among your friends, do some research, and expect mainly a chance to meet a larger number of people than you otherwise could. Arrange a face-to-face meeting with a prospect as soon as possible. It’s the only reliable way to size up anyone. Some sites even host in person get-togethers for their subscribers in several different locations.
Political groups. Every election, local or national, has candidates looking for unpaid labor. You can canvass, stuff envelopes, help out at the polls, or make phone calls. You can support a particular candidate or work on behalf of a political party. You can also work on behalf of causes: fair taxation, the environment, women’s right to abortion and contraception, and so forth. In the ranks of the workers you will find other committed activists.
Speed dating. Speed dating events seat everyone at a long table, men on one side, women on the other. You interact with the person facing you, and when the timer goes off, you move on to the next person. At the end the event sponsors connect people who have indicated an interest in each other on score cards provided at the outset. Moderate your expectations, and be sure, before you pay your nickel to attend, that there will be people in your target age group.
Volunteer activities. There are many organizations offering a chance to put your time and energies to good use, and there are online websites devoted to making volunteer opportunities easier to find in your area (just Google “volunteer”). You can help the Sierra Club, the National Audubon Society, Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity, the American Cancer Society, and oodles more organizations. If you enjoy doing a good deed, you will quickly find like-minded others.
Above all, be patient in your search. Remember that it only takes one. Vary your efforts. Use several different approaches at once. Take a break from time to time. Don’t park all of your hopes in a single online dating site. Expect to meet the right person when you least expect to, through a friend or when you are out and about, doing something you love.