Have you used Facebook, online games, or other social media? Most people have communicated online without realizing that they have entered the online chat world. When some of my older library patrons kept talking about the online world, a theme I kept hearing was how negative and awful social media and online dating are. I also became part of many dating when you are older conversations. Have you tried online dating? Is it safe? When was the last time you went on a first date?
I have had some of the most amazing experiences over the last few years of my career. The most satisfying is being an outreach librarian (serving the older adult population in the community) where I can actually see the impact we make in their lives. The most gratifying has been the presentations I have done where I can share my knowledge with patrons and colleagues. And the one that makes my heart smile the most is spreading the word that librarians are out in their communities to serve patron needs.
As outreach manager of the White Oak Library District, with Illinois branches in Crest Hill, Lockport and Romeoville, part of Tina Williams’ job is to pay attention to patrons’ needs. So when she recently fielded questions from seniors on how to set up dating accounts, she thought the topic might be worth a workshop. “I get a lot of questions about, ‘How do we meet and mingle? Am I too old to be dating?’ Dating’s so different now,” Williams said. (Bowen, Chicago Tribune)
“Our program started out of popular demand,” explains Tina Williams, outreach services manager of the White Oak Library District (which includes Romeoville, Lockport and Crest Hill, Il). She’s been running the two-hour dating class titled “Dating Over 50: Have Fun, Be Safe” on the last Friday of each month at the Romeoville branch since 2017, and a few times a year at the other two libraries in the district. (Allen, NextAvenue)
Technology. Whenever someone asks me if they should buy a computer, a tablet or get a smartphone, I have the same response. “What will you use it for?” The follow up to that is to find out how much they know about technology. This is an important conversation to have whenever someone asks me about online dating too. If you don’t know how to utilize technology, you will have a harder time with online dating.
If you’re not comfortable with technology, learn the basics before trying online dating, says Tina Williams, a White Oak Library District outreach services manager who leads a monthly program called Dating Over 50 and teaches online dating classes for adults in her Illinois area. “You don’t want to come across as not responding well if it’s just a technology issue,” she says. (Petrecca, AARP)
Negativity. Did you know you can filter and follow anyone you choose? I am often showing people how to follow and unfollow on various social media. You can utilize social media, if you choose, for good and positive inspiration. It doesn’t mean you will be sheltered from every horrendous thought. But you can choose to ignore, unfollow, and rise above the negativity. In the online dating world, you can unmatch, ignore, and report. You can also educate yourself. Simply Google: people, acronyms, and unclear information.
Acronyms and abbreviations are common. Terms such as “poly” (for polyamory or consensual non-monogamy) or “fwb” (for friend with benefits) can indicate the type of relationships people seek. Confused by something? “Google it,” Williams says. (Petrecca, AARP)
Online Dating. I decided to dive into the world of online dating apps when my patrons were asking me questions that I couldn’t answer and since I was single and not knowing much about the online dating world either. Here’s an overview of what I have learned.
- Safety is your number one priority, not romance.
- Know yourself. Be yourself. Accept yourself. Work on yourself.
- Be honest. Set boundaries. Know what you need and what you want.
- Get active. Find something you enjoy doing. It’s good for your health and will increase the chance of meeting someone with similar interests.
- Flirt. Get out there. Have fun. (Remember to be safe.)
- Has dating changed? You make the rules and set your own boundaries. Be nice, even when you say no. Trust your instincts because technology makes it easier to hide behind a mask.
- People of all ages have sex. Use condoms; STDs are most prevalent in the older adult population. Have honest conversations. As we age, our bodies change. If you can’t talk about it, you shouldn’t be doing it – at any age.
- Have a safe buddy. Don’t feel pressure in sharing with your family or the world that you are dating. But have at least one person you can openly talk to about your dating conversations and experiences. Check in with your safe buddy whenever you are planning to meet someone – before and after the date. Until you have been on a few dates and know the person better – do not change locations during the date, do not share photos of family, and do not invite the person to your home.
- Online dating sites each have similar mechanics as to how they function. First, you need to know how to utilize basic technology skills. Second, each site has a help section to show you how to use their app, tips on how to find a match on their site, and how to be safe and report people. Try the free versions before buying in, unless you truly know what you are paying for upfront. Not all sites are made equally. Verify they are legitimate and promote safety. Know that many sites are owned by the same parent company. Google a site before putting your information out there and before paying.
How do you balance safety and romance? Trust your gut. Trust your instincts. If you haven’t learned how to do this, work on yourself before dating. Then ask a trusted friend to help you out by talking to them about the person you are interested in dating. If you are trying online dating, ask a friend to look at your profile and photos.
Library Dating Program. When I lead the Dating Over 50: Have Fun, Be Safe monthly group, we discuss all aspects of dating. I research, share resources and articles, present a topic and have an ice breaker game. I’ve partnered with our program sponsors AARP and Walgreens. The program is a lot of work. But it’s also a lot of fun because we play games and have honest conversations. I have learned a lot and have seen another side to the older adult years.
Here are some of the topics we have covered so far:
- Dating history and today’s dating
- Online dating and safety
- Speed dating and first dates
- Knowing yourself, being safe, having fun, and setting boundaries
- Defining your interests and passions so you can find places to mingle with people of similar interests
- A healthy you is a happy you, relax and enjoy, put your best foot forward
- Sex and your sexuality in your 50s & 60s
- Dating after loss: divorce and death
- Making a good first impression
- Music connects us whether we are dancing, chair dancing, singing along, or simply enjoying the tune
Examples of what you can do to take care of yourself:
- Top three things you can do to take care of yourself are:
- Keep moving
- Try something new
- Find ways to smile more
- Follow your passion
- Take a walk in nature
- Do something for yourself
- Take care of your health
- Visit with family and friends
- Conquer a fear
- Set goals – bucket list!
- Read through some of my other posts, I have tips listed in all my posts (see below for examples)
I am humbled to have been interviewed three times in 2019 about this unique program concerning how libraries are responding to questions from their older single patrons who are thinking about dating.
Allen, Lorraine. Librarians Change the 50+ Dating Game. NextAvenue. July 19, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.nextavenue.org/librarians-change-the-50-dating-game/
Bowen, Alison. Forget Meeting IRL. Older singles are using dating apps, websites for potential partners. Chicago Tribune. January 4, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/sc-fam-seniors-online-dating-apps-0108-story.html
Petrecca, Laura. Navigating the World of Online Dating After 50. AARP. January 28, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.aarp.org/home-family/dating/info-2019/online-dating-after-50.html
I normally list resources at the end of my articles. However, I have read more articles and books on these topics than I can begin to list. If you are 50 years of age and older, single and in the Chicago suburbs, send me a message. I’ll let you know when the next event is scheduled. You can join me at an upcoming presentation at one of the local libraries or join the Meet Up group too.
John Mulaney’s Kid Gorgeous stand up special talks about a detective, J. J. Bittenbinder, who annually spoke to students when he was in grammar school about safety. Did you have safety training when you were younger? I found many of my older patrons need safety tips. If you need a good laugh, along with a nudge to learn street smarts, watch John’s special.
Watch this overview, retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXfUsXM01UE
Watch John’s special on Netflix, retrieved from: https://www.netflix.com/title/80238110
Enochs, Elizabeth. 11 Tips for Safe Online Dating, Straight from an Expert. Bustle. November 7, 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.bustle.com/articles/193400-11-tips-for-safe-online-dating-straight-from-an-expert
Federal Trade Commission. What You Need to Know About Romance Scams. FTC. 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/what-you-need-know-about-romance-scams
OurTime. Online Dating Safety Tips. People Media. 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.ourtime.com/v3/datingtips
TVLand. Condoms Rose. Golden Girls. Retrieved from:
Williams, Tina. I Stumbled Into Myself. Retrieved from:
Williams, Tina. It’s How You Look At It. Retrieved from:
Williams, Tina. Keep Moving: Retrieved from: