Online dating at midlife

For many men and women looking for new love at midlife and beyond, the place to go is obvious: the Internet. But how best to navigate cyberspace in pursuit of romance?

Dr. Eli J. Finkel, a professor of social psychology at Northwestern University, recently co-wrote a study about the benefits and limitations of online dating. The Wall Street Journal spoke to Finkel from his office in Evanston, Ill. Here are edited excerpts of that conversation:

WSJ: People at midlife and beyond are the fastest-growing segment using Internet dating sites. Why is that?

FINKEL: The stigma associated with Internet dating has subsided substantially, people are more Internet-savvy, and the sites are more user-friendly.

I also think it's worth noting that in 1900 the life expectancy was 47. Our life spans today are longer, and there has been a cultural shift toward people valuing fulfillment later in life. You see a larger percentage of people divorcing after their children leave the household. They say, "I'm 50 or 60, and I don't want to live the years left to me in an unfulfilling marriage." Others may find themselves widowed. Relationships may end. But they aren't sentenced to being alone; they can date, meeting in various ways, including the Internet.

Where to Look?
WSJ: Is there a "best" dating site for older adults?

FINKEL: There are over 1,000 sites. To give you an idea of the range, there are places like, which is very mainstream and appeals to a broad audience, and there are all sorts of niche sites. There are sites that target people over 50. There are sites for people wanting to find others of the same religion or ethnicity. There are sites that are quirky, like for women who like men with mustaches, or, for people who like Apple products [and whose headquarters is in Cupertino, Calif.].

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