elderly couple on date fishing on dock

Whether by choice or by circumstance, a large portion of American seniors are single. According to the 2014 Profile of Older Americans published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 54% of women and 28% of men over age 65 are either widowed, divorced/separated, or have never married. Of these single seniors, many are seeking to begin a relationship or even find a life partner for their later years.

In the past, these individuals might have met a significant other at school or work, but dating post-retirement may be unfamiliar terrain for many seniors. Fortunately, while a potential partner or spouse may not live next door, seniors have many options for making a connection and starting a relationship. And as seniors begin to explore the senior dating scene, they may want to consider these helpful tips:

Make Sure You’re Ready

Don’t jump into dating simply because your friends or family are urging you to. It’s okay if you don’t feel ready or if you’re happy with the single life. If outside pressures rather than a personal desire are nudging you toward dating, you probably won’t have a very positive experience. If you have leftover feelings of anger or sadness over a past relationship, it’s okay to wait. However, if you feel positive and open to trying something new, there’s also no harm in testing the waters.

Branch Out

It’s easy to get tied down by your own (and others’) expectations for your dating experience, but don’t limit your options by insisting every potential partner complete a long list of requirements. Determine which characteristics (e.g. religion, non-smoking, etc.) are musts for you, and drop the rest of your list of preferences for age and interests. You may be surprised by the great matches you find.

Look for Friends

Rather than looking for a spouse, start by looking for friends. Only searching for a spouse can limit your options and put unnecessary pressure on you and your dates. As you start to search out new friends, whether it’s online or through community activities and hobby groups, you’ll begin to find potential partners but without the pressure. Seeing individuals as potential friends also gives you space to decide if you’d like to take your relationship further.

Stay Safe

Though most of the people you meet will be honest and well-meaning, you shouldn’t take any risks with your safety. Always plan to meet in safe public places, and until you feel confident that the person is who she or he claims to be, don’t get into her or his car. This may lead to uncomfortable conversations, but it’s better to seem rude than to put yourself in harm’s way.

Stick It Out

It may take a while to find an ideal match, but be resilient. Though your first few dates (or many dates) may be duds, if you treat these dates as social opportunities, you’ll start to enjoy them, even if you don’t find a long-term partner right away. If you stick with it, you’ll eventually find a match, and you’ll have some great experiences in the meantime.

Dating in your 60s is different than dating in your 20s, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. More and more seniors are connecting online and in their communities, and whether you’re looking for a life partner or a new friend, there are options for you. Just remember to stay open, stay safe, and enjoy the experience.