The dating world can look very different for older Americans than for younger ones – whether it’s returning after a long period of not dating or trying to work romance into established routines. Some older adults are turning to online dating to find these connections, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted July 5-17, 2022. Here are seven findings about online dating for Americans ages 50 and older.
Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to understand how Americans ages 50 and older experience dating sites and apps and their views of online dating generally. We surveyed 6,034 U.S. adults ages 18 and older from July 5 to 17, 2022.
This included 4,996 respondents from the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. It also included an oversample of 1,038 respondents from Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
Online dating users and online daters are used interchangeably throughout this analysis to refer to those who have ever used a dating site or app.
One-in-six Americans ages 50 and older (17%) say they have ever used a dating site or app. That’s similar to the share who said this the last time the Center asked about it in 2019.
About a quarter of those in their 50s (23%) say they have ever used online dating platforms, compared with 14% of adults in their 60s and 12% of those in their 70s and older.
However, just 3% of adults 50 and older currently use online dating platforms or have used them within the last year, compared with 15% of those under 50.
Among adults 50 and older who are partnered – that is, married, living with a partner or in a committed romantic relationship – 6% say they met their significant other through online dating.
The dating sites and apps people use vary widely by age. Online dating users who are 50 and older are far less likely than those under 50 to say they ever use Tinder (11% vs. 59%). By contrast, older users are more likely to have used Match (50% vs. 24%).
Still, age differences exist among those 50 and older. Some 19% of online daters ages 50 to 59 say they’ve used Tinder, compared with 6% of those 60 to 69 and just 1% of those 70 and older.
Online dating users in their 50s are also more likely than their older counterparts to say they’ve used OkCupid and Bumble. They are about as likely as those in their 60s, and more likely than those 70 and older, to have used Match.
There are no significant differences in the use of eharmony, Hinge, Grindr or HER among online daters 50 and older.
Older adults cite various reasons why they have online dated in the past year. About half of adults 50 and older who have dated online in the past year cite meeting a long-term partner or spouse as a major reason. Some 36% of older adults who have used these platforms recently also cite wanting to date casually as a major reason.
Similar shares of older online daters also say this about making friends (30%) or having casual sex (22%).
Younger users are just as likely as older adults to cite each of these reasons for using online dating platforms in the past year.
Older women are the most likely to describe their online dating experiences as negative. Overall, Americans who have ever used a dating site or app are somewhat divided on whether it’s been a positive or negative experience. Roughly half (53%) say they have had a somewhat or very positive experience, while a slightly smaller share (46%) say their experience has been somewhat or very negative.
There are also differences by age and gender. Women 50 and older who have used online dating platforms are more likely than their male counterparts in the same age group to say their experiences have been negative (57% vs. 38%).
In contrast, women ages 18 to 49 who have used online dating platforms are about as likely as men of the same age to say their experiences have been negative (48% vs. 43%).
Older men are the most likely to have paid to use a dating site or app. Though the majority of online daters say they have not paid to use a dating site, including paying for extra features, this varies by gender and age.
Older men who have used online dating sites stand out in saying they have paid to use these sites. Among users, men ages 50 to 64 are 13 percentage points more likely than women of the same age to have paid for online dating. And men 65 and older are 22 points more likely than women 65 and older to have paid for it.
About half of online daters ages 50 and older (47%) say they have encountered someone who they thought was trying to scam them. Online daters ages 50 to 64 are more likely than those 65 and older to have experienced this (52% vs. 39%).
Reports of online dating scams differ widely by gender among users under 50. More younger men than younger women say they have come across such scams (63% vs. 42%). However, these gender differences do not come up for older users.
More than four-in-ten online daters ages 50 or older (45%) report experiencing at least one of four unwanted behaviors while using an online dating platform. That includes 33% of older users who say they have been sent sexually explicit content that they didn’t ask for and 26% who say they have had someone continue to contact them after they expressed disinterest. In addition, 17% of older users say they were called an offensive name, and 4% were threatened with physical harm.
Experiencing these things is less common for users ages 65 and older than for younger users. Half of users under 65 say they’ve experienced at least one of these forms of harassment on an online dating platform, compared with one-in-three users 65 and older.
These findings reflect gender differences as well. Among online dating users, women are more likely than men to say they have experienced at least one of the unwanted experiences asked about. This is also true for women ages 18 to 49 and 50 to 64 compared with their men in the each respective age group. However, there are no gender differences among online dating users 65 and older.