Maybe the last time you looked for a potential partner you hung out at a singles bar, or your best friend tried to set you up on a blind date.
The dating scene is now driven by smartphones and laptops — and in a lot of ways, it makes finding a special someone a little easier. AARP's new partnership with HowAboutWe.com, which has had more than a million users since its inception two years ago, is meant to make it so.
See also: 5 first-date mistakes to avoid.
Getting started is easy. It's free to create a profile on the site, which involves answering a few optional questions about yourself (education, job, politics, and how much do you smoke, exercise and drink), and what kind of person you're looking for in a potential date. You'll also want to post photos. Erin Scottberg, media director for HowAboutWe.com, recommends uploading at least three pictures, since "people with three photos or more get four times the profile views and responses as people with one photo."
Then you'll suggest an idea for the kind of date you'd like to go on, starting with "How about we ...." This pick-a-date feature is the central concept behind the site, says Scottberg, in that "it's a much more natural, organic way to get an idea of somebody's personality than a static, one-dimensional profile." There are a list of suggestions, but coming up with your own will help you define yourself better. Recent posts include, "How about we … take my dogs for a walk" and "How about we … get some tea and do the crossword like an old married couple." (Both of those were from men.)
The most popular dates among people over 50 are food-related — checking out a new restaurant, say, or seeking out the best chocolate cake in town — and going to hear live music. Volunteering is also big. (How about we … volunteer at Pretty Your Park day.")
Once you've completed your profile, you can browse for matches based on the dates the site suggests, or "the old-fashioned way," as Scottberg puts it, specifiying desired height, musical taste or age range. Then your HowAboutWe.com home page will offer you a steady stream of all the dates that have met your criteria. There's also a "date map" feature, where you can see a map of your city marked with the "dates near you," and an app for the iPhone so you can post ideas for dates while on the fly.
If someone catches your eye, you can click on the "I'm intrigued" button, which is similar to a Facebook "poke" — a little low-risk flirtation. Or send a direct message. At that point, you need to subscribe: With an AARP member discount, a one-month subscription is $17.50; a one-year subscription, $53.94. AARP members also get a seven-day free trial to test the waters.
When you send that first message, Scottberg suggests, "keep it short and sweet, and either comment on something in their profile, comment on their date idea or just ask a light question."
It helps, says Scottberg, that "the date's already planned. All that you and the other person need to do is decide when. There's none of the awkward 'How are we going to ask each other out' that you get with traditional dating sites." And if you do connect and end up happily ever after, she adds, "you'll have an amazing story about your first date — 'We had a bottle of wine watching Shakespeare in the Park,' rather than, 'Oh, we met online.' "
Published November 2012