Archive for Monday, January 3, 2011

Finding a new companion, safely and happily

January 3, 2011

At nearly every age, single people who would like to be partnered face a crucial question: What’s the best way for me to meet the kind of person I’m interested in?

And as we age, singles tend to add a second question: How can I do that safely?

Jack Alley, 60, of Overland Park, is the founder of Match Maker International, a singles dating service that has many older-adult clients. Unlike the myriad of online dating sites available, Alley’s business is a person-to-person venture in which clients are interviewed, background checks are conducted, and continual feedback is sought from clients about the people they’re meeting.

Says Alley, “A lot of good people make bad choices when it comes to choosing a life partner. Do you know that people do more research in buying an automobile than in finding a spouse? Is a 100,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty more important than your own heart?”

Alley has seen it all — both online and other forms of singles matching — and he has supportive but cautious information to share:

Why do single seniors generally want to meet other singles?

The most-desired emotion on our planet is “love,” which results from a connection with another human being that, in simple terms, makes the quality of our life more fulfilled and joyful. It’s not always going to be perfect, but for many seniors it sure beats the alternative of being alone.

In my experience, when people who have been married for many years lose their spouse through death or divorce, they feel that they are missing part of themselves and want to rekindle that kind of connection. I don’t think you can ever duplicate the past, but I don’t think anyone who doesn’t want to be alone should be alone. There is so much joy to be gained by having a companion.

When do seniors turn to online dating sites?

There are many reasons to use an online venue, and the first is convenience; you can do it from home. The second is opportunity; there are well over 250,000 singles Web sites on the Internet. Next is shared interests; online you can be in contact with persons down the street or all over the country or the world, for that matter, and make new friends.

What should older adults be cautious about in online dating?

We all need to be aware that once we put information on a computer and place it on the Internet, we are taking something of a risk. Some risks are more serious than others, so singles have to know what to share on a dating site.

Never respond to someone if you have not initiated the contact yourself, and even then you should be cautious. Some people using singles Web sites are not who they represent themselves to be. They’re engaging in what is called “phishing,” trying to gain as much personal information about you as possible. This could include where you live (they already know you are single), what you do for a living, what kind of car you drive, what income bracket you’re in — anything that could be used to cause you financial difficulty. Remember, even when you have someone’s e-mail address, a photo to look at, and maybe even a phone number to talk to, you need to know for your own security and safety that the person you are corresponding with is legitimate. In general, older persons are more at risk to be taken advantage of, especially if they are very lonely.

How can singles protect themselves?

If you meet someone in person, never share certain information until you are 100 percent comfortable that the information you are sharing is with someone you truly know, not just an Internet acquaintance. Do not share your last name, date of birth, Social Security number, address of your residency, or financial information of any kind.

If you are motivated to meet someone you have met online, here is some basic protective advice: Tell someone you trust whom you are meeting, where you are meeting, what time you will be at the meeting place, and what time you should be returning home. Program your cell phone to call someone you trust, so you don’t have to worry about remembering the number if you get nervous.

Meet the new acquaintance in the daytime in a very public place. Never have the person pick you up on the first or second date; instead, have your own transportation or have a friend take you and pick you up at a prescribed time.

What should older adults look for in an online dating service?

Look for a site that offers opportunity, safety, comfort, and control over what you want to share, as well as an easy way to get off the site when you no longer wish to participate.

Having spent more than 27 years in the “relationship industry,” my suggestion is to be cautious about how each Internet dating site operates, how your personal information is used, and the cost (never pay with a debit card; use your credit card to protect you if there is fraud).

On some Internet dating sites, even though you cancel your membership, your profile may still be shown and kept in the site’s dating inventory.

Good sources for local information about a service or dating site are the Better Business Bureau and referrals from friends.

Overall, just remember that dating has vastly changed in the past 40 years. Dating is still on the radar as the best beginning process for people who are looking for a relationship, but we need to be cautious.

There is no magic crystal ball for dating successfully, but there are lots of good people out there just like yourself, wanting to meet, date, and develop relationships.

What kinds of services are available for seniors who would prefer to work with a personal “matchmaker”?

The Kansas City metro has four or five services, each with its own brand of operational success. When you choose a service, here are things you must understand in finding the process that best fits what you are trying to accomplish.

  • Does the service clearly explain to you, and let you see, the kinds of clients you could be matched with?
  • Does the service show you the kinds of screenings (civil/criminal) it performs?
  • Does the service offer any kind of guarantee on its service?
  • How is the service rated with the Better Business Bureau?

If you do your homework, you might be surprised about how many opportunities there are for you to meet a good person. The most difficult part of meeting anyone new, as a senior, is trust and safety. Instinct is just not good enough.

Lynn Anderson is editor of The Best Times, a Johnson County (Kansas) newspaper for 60-and-older residents.

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