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Digital Love: Older Adults, Technology & Finding New Love Online

February 14, 2011, 12:13 PM
Happy Valentine’s Day!Cards, candy and…connecting online? Older adults are among the fastest growing age group meeting and matching digitally. Worldwide more older adults are finding love online. Match.com reports that 22%of its members are over age 50 in an industry estimated to generate more than$1 billion in online sales and growing at nearly 10% annually. Why? As the famed New YorkYankee’s manager Yogi Berra observed – “you can see a lotby looking”. Consider the following social realities for peopleover 50 that makes online versus more 'traditional' strategies a natural outlet for finding new love:

  • Too alone – choice, divorce and widowhood has made old age a ‘home alone’ experience. Match.comreports that 71% of their over 50 members are divorced while 11% are widowed.Whatever the reason for living alone – the numbers are compelling.30% of olderAmericans live alone as do many older Europeans, e.g., 55% of Denmark’s, 36% ofItaly 65+ population live alone, even 19% of India’s older people live on theirown;
  • Too familiar – theyalready know nearly everyone in their social network (and, if divorced, it maybe unclear who ‘gets the friends’ after a split);
  • Too busy – most work, havechildren and have little time to ‘go’ places to meet new people; and,
  • Too complicated – workplacepolicies and potential conflicts do not make work a ready place to meet a newmate.
So do older digitalromantics behave differently than younger people online? Yes, similar to observations made in a previous post interviewing Eons.com Jeff Taylor, older adults use social media differently than younger users. Most information comes fromsurveys conducted by online dating sites. Here are some observations from datagleamed from match.com, eHarmony.com and others. 

Older digital romantics are:

  • Likely to post a youngerpicture of themselves;
  • Liberated from dating criteriatheir parents may have imposed decades earlier, e.g., more open to differences in race, religion,socio-economic background; and,
  • Looking for a life companionto spend time with, e.g., talk, dinner, hobbies, take a walk, etc.

The ‘etc.’ is loaded, so beforeyou click off concluding that older digital romantics are stayed and lackingspark you should consider the findings of recent studies at Iowa StateUniversity and Australia’s Swinburne University.

Iowa State researchers Professor Alicia Cast and graduate student Jamie McCartney found that the Internet makes everything faster. The researchers studied 175newlywed couples and found that digital romantics tended to be older –moreover, courtship time was markedly less. Newlywed couples who met online or onother social networking sites reported a far shorter time to marriage. Thecourtship period for digital romantics was a mere 18.5 months compared to those‘traditionalists’ who courted offline taking 42 months to tie the knot.

Swinburne University’s Sue Malta is a leading researcher on older online dating behavior. Reading her workis well worth the time and a fun read too. Sue found in her study ofAustralians ages 60 to 92 that her online subjects were not subdued by time ormedium. According to Sue, "My older adults were more overtly sexual online…" (because)"they could be".

As life online becomes the new norm for allage groups – especially among older users – finding digital love is a naturalextension to all the other more mundane activities people do digitally..

What Can Other Businesses Learn from Love Online?

Is there a lesson here for other businesses? Yes, these are just a few but should be considered, especially by those who still believe that anyone over 50 is not willing to try something new:
  • Older consumers are willing to try something new if the value proposition is significant;
  • Novel products or services must fit within the lifestyle and constraints of the older consumer who is low on time and patience; and, 
  • Fun is sticky, for those who think technology for older adults is only about safety, healthcare and financial security -- they are missing what consumers want at any age -- fun and feeling connected.

Digital Love: Older Adults,...

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