Swipe Right on Older Adults and Dating: An Exploration of Tinder for Aging Adults

By Allie Johnson

0078_elderly_cell_phone_con_768x432_mainAs adults age, romantic relationships continue to be important. An increasing number of older adults meet online (Lecture). Dating websites such as Match.com allow adults of all ages to find romantic partners. As research has shown the benefit of having romantic relationships in aging adulthood as well as the percentage of single older adults looking to be in a relationship, it is important to examine all possibilities of finding romantic relationships in older adulthood. Rather recently, with the boom of smartphone use, a new type of online dating media has emerged, the Social Dating App. The most popular Social Dating App, Tinder, is most commonly used by younger populations and may be considered their version of an online dating website. Unfortunately, older adults may not be using Social Dating Apps such as Tinder even though they could potentially be useful for finding romantic relationships.

While sharing a goal of helping their users to create romantic connections with each other, Match.com and Tinder have relatively different approaches. Match.com is an online dating service that considers users’ profile information as well as selected partner preferences. Users create a profile with pictures and writing sections in order to express themselves and share more about themselves to potential matches. This website shows the users lists of singles available in their area that they may have chemistry with. Inversely, Tinder is a popular Social Dating App that app allows users to state their interest in others with the swipe of a finger. Tinder uses location, gender preferences and age preferences in order to randomly present users with other available users nearby. Users must decide if they are interested in talking to this person based solely on a few pictures and a short biographical paragraph. Two users that have both swiped right on each other’s profiles become a match and can now chat.

According to research done on dating relationships in older adulthood in the United States, dating continues to be important throughout the lifetime (Brown & Shinohara, 2013). This study found that of unmarried adults aged 57 to 85, only 14% are in dating relationships (Brown & Shinohara, 2013). This research also found that, compared to non-daters, older adult daters have more social ties (Brown & Shinohara, 2013). This means that older adults who are less socially connected or women are less likely to date. Interestingly, this may have to do with the increased socioemotional selectivity often accompanied with aging. Older adults tend to become more selective with friendships as they age (Lecture). This could decrease older adults’ number of social ties and therefor decrease the likelihood of dating in later adulthood. Online Dating Agencies and Social Dating Apps could be a solution to dating problems faced by older adults. Services like Match.com and Tinder may allow for older adults with less social ties to meet and date more people. Older adults may not want to seek potential mates by doing things that other aged people would want to such as going to bars or clubs (Lecture). This could be due to cultural differences between aging adults and younger adults.

While Tinder has gotten the reputation of being an app for people only looking for hookups, research actually challenges this notion. A study by Gatter and Hodkinson (2016) examines the differences between users of Online Dating Agencies and the Social Dating App, Tinder. The study sought to examine the differences in sociability, self-esteem, sexual permissiveness, and motivation for online dating between the users of the two. The study recruited participants over social media who answered questionnaires. Research found very little differences between the users of Tinder and the users of Online Dating Agencies even in promiscuity. However, there was quite a significant difference in the age of the users. Tinder users were much younger than those who use Online Dating Agencies. Research shows that in the United States, dating apps are most likely used by adults in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties while online dating agencies were most likely to be used by adults from their mid-twenties to mid-forties (Gatter & Hodkinson, 2016).

Because the main difference between online dating websites’ users and Tinder’s users is an age difference, Tinder and other Social Dating Apps may be an untapped resource for older adults looking for romantic relationships. Several functions may actually make Tinder something that older adults should use. Firstly, Tinder is very user-friendly and has very simple directions of use. Even those who do not feel comfortable with technology could learn how to use it. Because of age-related declines in cognitive functioning, older adults may experience problems with attention (Lecture). These include having problems with multitasking as well as inhibitory loss—meaning that they have greater difficulty ignoring irrelevant information (Lecture). For this reason, the simplicity of Tinder in both its visual layout as well as ease of use could make it a useful tool for aging adults. Also, matches are mutually created which may be particularly beneficial for aging female users. Because of cultural values of feminine youth, older men may be encouraged to seek younger women and this is reflected in the low percentage of older women dating (Brown & Shinohara, 2013). Mutual selection of matches may allow older female users to feel like equals in their ability to choose matches and broaden their dating pool.

However, older adults may face obstacles for using both Tinder and Match.com. In a study by Malta and Farquhason (2014), relationships of older adults and over were examined. The study interviewed 45 participants ages 60 and above who were currently or recently in a romantic relationship that began in late life. Of the 45 participants, all desired long-term relationships. However, only 25 had developed these long-term relationships while the other 20 only made casual or short-term connections. During interviews, participants attributed the short-term nature of their relationships to 3 factors, one being the nature of online dating. They stated that the amount of people available to date through online dating sites made it possible to try out many relationships without long-term commitment. However, these short-term relationships do not represent what older adults want, revealing a problem that older adults have with online dating (Malta & Farquhason, 2014). Another problem that older adults may have with Tinder in particular is the lack of potential for connections based on shared values, goals and interests. Because of the simplicity of users’ profile on Tinder, matches may be mostly based on appearance rather than commonalities in these areas even though they are important predictors of relationship success (Lecture).

Both Tinder and Match.com could make changes to encourage older adult use. The culture surrounding Tinder as well as aging adults and dating needs to change. Society needs to accept that older adults date and deserve to be happy in relationships. People also need to treat change the hookup culture associated with Tinder. Also, Tinder should focus on allowing people to make connections based on values, goals and interests. This may make Tinder a more successful app among aging adults. Research shows that relationships in older adulthood continue to be important, and meaningful (Brown & Shinohara, 2013). However, they may be more difficult to attain. Online Dating Agencies such as Match.com and Social Dating Apps such as Tinder are both useful tools for adults looking for romantic relationships. With modifications, Social Dating Apps and online dating agencies can be an important and useful tool for aging adults to meet people and create meaningful romantic relationships.

 

 

References

Burzynska, A. (2017). Retrieved from Colorado State University Canvas site for HDFS 312.

Brown, S. & Shinohara, S. (2013). Dating relationships in older adulthood: A national portrait. National Institutes of Public Health.

Gatter, K. & Hodkinson, K. (2015). On the differences between Tinder™ versus online dating agencies: Questioning a myth. An exploratory study

Malta, S. & Farquharson, K. (2012). The initiation and progression of late-life romantic relationships. Journal of Sociology.

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