Tuesday, 10 June 2014
Elder Online Dating
Last week, The Atlantic reported on a projected new web service called called Stitch which is, according to the reporter, like Tinder for old people - “an online community designed to help senior citizens find each other.”
The Australian owner of Stitch, Andrew Dowling, says the Tinder comparison that has been widely circulated in the media is, generally, off-base:
“Most of the older adults who look at our site can immediately tell we’re offering something totally different. It’s not geared towards casual hookups the way Tinder is. In fact, it’s the complete opposite.”
Dowling is up on his research. He knows that isolation and loneliness in elders are as big a health hazard as smoking and obesity and although Stitch will certainly provide a venue for old people to find dates, that's not its only, or perhaps, primary goal:
”...he’s trying to connect people with common interests. Dowling is, in other words, not just trying to be a romantic matchmaker, but a friend matchmaker of sorts.
“'One of the inevitabilities of getting older is that your social circle eventually starts to shrink, Dowling noted. 'Friends die or move, relationships break down...'”
Sound familiar? If you hang out here, you've read about that difficulty a lot. I do tend to harp on it, don't I.
Right now, Stitch is available only in limited beta in parts of California and in New South Wales, Australia but in a month or two will launch in the rest of Australia, the U.S. and in Canada.
So there's not much news in this yet but it reminded me that a year or two ago I had begun the reporting for a story here on online dating and elders. I abandoned the project because
• No dating site allows you to look around and see what it's like, how it's laid out, how it operates or pricing before you create an account
• Guess what's going to happen then? Even if they don't sell your email address, they're going to bombard you with 89 emails a day until you die.
• You cannot get into the site without giving up your email address, date of birth, Zip Code, name and a couple of other items.
• And finally, if they don't exactly cheat, they are sneaky.
Even with all the above alerts, I signed on to one of the biggest names in online dating to see what I could find.
Credit card information was required to sign on to the free period. That's always a red flag because for sure a percentage of users will forget to cancel before the freebie expires. But in the name you, dear readers, I persevered.
The questionnaire was endless. I no longer remember particulars but I do recall that it felt like high school and I wanted to cry from boredom.
Eventually, I was able to look around at potential dates in my community. There were more than I would have guessed but no one who didn't appear to be either lying about his age or in denial of it with such phrases as “My friends say I look 15 years younger than I am.”
It was so discouraging that I set aside the project for a couple of days.
When I checked back, I realized something that I had not thought through as I planned the project: I could not honorably do it at all because even if I found someone I wanted to contact, I was wasting his time. I wasn't there to find a date' I was there to find a story.
So I let it go and moved on to other things and here's where the sneakiness comes in. A couple of weeks later, a $30 monthly charge appeared on my credit card. I had neglected to calendar the expiration date of the free period.
After several of my emails went unanswered, I finally tracked down a phone number (not easy) and tried to get the charge canceled. Even thought their records would easily show I had never used the site again, they refused but eventually my credit card company saved the day.
(There is no reason, none, for a company to require credit card information before a trial period. They can just shut off your access at the end of the week or month. So they are suspect from the getgo in that requirement.)
Back to Stitch. When I saw the story about it a few days ago, I was reminded that there has recently been an advertising barrage in my area for a 50-plus online dating service called Our Time. I tried to check it out and like the others two years ago, there is nothing to see or know about it without giving away a lot of information.
I wanted to see if this site might be different. It wasn't. I balked at the fourth screen when they wanted my email address – I just cannot stand the thought of more crap in my inbox and my fingers refused to type in even one of the email addresses I use to avoid it.
None of the stories I've read about Stitch addresses any of the objections I have. Meanwhile, Dowling does seem to understand some of the ways elders are different from younger people and he told The Atlantic:
“'We’re going to be exploring a few different pricing models to find out what is going to work best,' Dowling said. 'Many of our users are on fixed incomes so affordability is a big concern—which is one reason why some companies haven’t traditionally focused on older users.'
“That said, Dowling hasn’t had a problem getting requests from people inquiring about Stitch’s launch date. And Stitch is grabbing media attention for being a way for older people to connect without the travails of online dating...
“'There needs to be an easier way to meet new companions, no matter how old you are,' Dowling said. 'As one of our users said to us, “I kept trying online dating sites because I didn’t have any other options.”We’d like to be that other option.'”
Now I am wondering how many of you have tried online dating, what you experiences have been and if, unlike me, you kept at it, how it turned out.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Chasing the Blues