By Sheryl Jean
The Dallas Morning News.
Divorced and with two children, Cheryl Ewing dated a lot of men and had a few bad experiences before meeting Peter Rozes on the online dating site Match in March 2012.
She was 52, he was 60.
“We felt that we were young at heart,” Cheryl said.
The romance blossomed, and a year later, the Southlake couple married, evidence that you’re never too old to date — or to fall in love.
It’s a lesson Dallas-based Match knows well. Indeed, the matchmaking website’s fastest-growing dating group is the over-50 crowd.
“People over 50 are now more trusting of going on dating sites,” said Navin Ramachandran, chief operating officer of Match Group, the parent company of Match. “The stigma has gone down tremendously.”
You can thank aging baby boomers, longer life spans and a stubbornly high divorce rate for keeping the country’s $2.2 billion online dating industry in clover. In fact, people ages 45 to 54 are as likely to date online as those 18 to 24 because they’re divorced or far removed from typical dating hubs like college, according to a recent Pew Research Center report.
The number of Match’s 50-plus singles has grown more than 50 percent from 2009 through 2014 in Dallas and overall to account for about one-third of all dating members. The company said it saw double-digit growth among that group in 2015.
An even more startling figure comes from rival dating site eHarmony: About 80,000 of its subscribers are over 80, said founder and chief executive Neil Clark Warren. That’s more than 10 percent of its subscribers.
The share of eHarmony’s subscribers over 50 is also growing: from 9.5 percent in 2012 to 13.5 percent in 2015.
When asked what’s driving eHarmony’s older dating trend, Warren said: “I think it might be me.” The 81-year-old psychologist with a divinity degree stars in the company’s advertisements.
“People see me and say if that guy can be married for 56 years, so can I,” Warren said. “We treat people who are older with great dignity.”
Paul Oyer, an economics professor at Stanford University, has a better explanation: demographic trends.
Not long ago, Oyer found himself back on the dating scene after being absent for over 20 years. He discovered that dating sites are no different than other markets, such as Monster and eBay, where people go to find a match.
The optimum dating scene is what economists call a “thick” market, where there are a lot of people seeking a match and results are better, said Oyer, who wrote the book Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Economics I Learned From Online Dating.
“If you’re an older person, you don’t have natural access to thick markets,” he said. “I’m at the office with very few people and very few women who are the right demographic for me. And a greater fraction of people in your demographic are already paired off, so there’s less opportunity to meet someone.”
Peter Rozes agrees.
The entrepreneur was married for 12 years before he divorced and began dating again in 2011.
“When I went on Match, I thought it was the most civilized way of meeting a partner,” he said. “I was looking for someone who would embrace my two young girls [then 9 and 11]. You can walk into a bar and say wow, she’s hot, but what do you do tomorrow?”
Then he met Cheryl, who had divorced in 2010 after 19 years of marriage and who also had two daughters, then 15 and 18.
“We’re a good match,” said Cheryl.
Fast growth among older singles has meant that matchmaking sites have had to change how they market.
Marketing for OurTime, a Match Group site that targets singles over 50, focuses on getting people over dating inertia, Ramachandran said. Ads show older couples on a roller coaster or camping.
New membership for OurTime has grown 80 percent over the last two years. In that time, Match Group has shifted more marketing dollars online to sites like Facebook where it can better target certain age groups, Ramachandran said.
Marketing expenditures for OurTime have more than doubled over the last five years, Match spokeswoman Amy Canaday said. The company does not release exactfigures.
Match Group has a multipronged strategy. Its flagship site Match, which pioneered online personals in 1995, is the world’s largest relationship site with about 2.6 million paid subscribers in North America.
But the company also targets specific demographic groups through several niche sites, such as SeniorPeopleMeet and JewishDating. And it owns popular mobile dating app Tinder and site OkCupid, and in July it bought dating site Plenty of Fish for $575 million to expand more into the lucrative, mobile dating business.
“You can have more confidence that members are looking for your age group vs. a general age site,” Ramachandran said of the niche sites. “Niche sites are growing faster than Match.”
EHarmony doesn’t go that far. Its strategy is to “treat all ages very similarly” through one website, Warren said.
But several sections of eHarmony’s site are niche-oriented, such as “senior dating” and “Asian dating.” Also, it offers EH+, a pricey personal matchmaking service that skews older and wealthier.
Array of sites
Match Group’s portfolio of dating sites helps it keep customers as they age and go from the Tinder app to OkCupid to Match to OurTime, economist Oyer said. In addition, older customers are more profitable because they tend to have more disposable income and spend more money, he said.
“This is a very hard business to make money in,” Oyer said. “Older people have money and they’re not set that everything on the Internet has to be free.”
For example, Tinder costs $9.99 to $19.99 a month. Match costs up to $40 a month for six months or less.
“We’re doing better than we’ve ever done,” Ramachandran said.
Match Group generated $235 million in total revenue in third quarter 2015, up 11 percent from a year earlier. Its number of dating subscribers rose 7 percent to 2.6 million.
During seven months on Match, over 11,000 people looked at Cheryl’s profile and she received date requests from men ages 30 to 75.
She now helps friends write their own online dating profiles.
The match game
Singles 70 and up are the least likely to want to get married (5 percent), followed by singles in their 60s (8 percent) and those in their 50s (20 percent).
Think older singles don’t care about sex or romance? That’s not true. The desire for sexual intimacy seems to increase or remain consistent over time.
87 percent of singles ages 50 to 70 said physical attraction between a partner is a must.
On age and happiness
Older singles are happier with their family, friendships and sex lives than any other age group.