Off Beat: Pitfalls and potential: Dating tips for older singles

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Dating as an older adult can be an arduous — yet nonetheless rewarding — adventure.

As explored in Sunday's Columbian article, "No age limit on love," looking for romance can be tricky no matter your age. But finding companionship later in life brings its own unique challenges -- sometimes presenting as much in the way of pitfalls as potential.

Here are three simple tips aimed at single seniors ready to return to the dating world.

Don't run before walking

Maybe your spouse died, maybe a long-term relationship has ended, or maybe it's time to re-enter the field after a hiatus. Whatever the reason for choosing to date again, it's important to know yourself, said Pepper Schwartz, AARP's sex and relationship expert. The University of Washington sociology professor said if someone has decided to become truly social again after an extended absence, maybe it's best for them to join a club, or volunteer somewhere before stressing about finding a date. Being comfortable with being more social will help them ease into the larger world again. They can ask a friend to accompany them on social outings to instill more confidence. "The best way to do it, I think, is to get what younger people would call a 'wingman' or 'wingwoman,'" Schwartz said.

Use caution cautiously

While it's OK to be on guard when getting to know someone, too much caution could actually become a roadblock to love. It's understandable to be protective of finances or privacy while dating, especially in the beginning of a relationship or on dating websites, but there should be a point where mistrust is allowed to morph into trust. Gail Haskett, Vancouver gerontologist and president of Aging Resources Inc., said some fall into the trap of consistently looking at what's wrong with a situation rather than what's right.

Know yourself

What are your goals in life? What do you want out of a lover? What makes you happy? These and similar questions should be explicitly considered when seeking companionship. As a person with many decades behind them, seniors are capable of a greater sense of self-understanding than in their early years. On dates, this can translate into confidence and honesty. "They feel more worthy in many ways," Schwartz said. It's also important to be real: using a recent photo when dating online, being upfront about your circumstances and the reasons you are dating. "One of the things you have to project is you are a grown-up now," Schwartz said.

— Stover E. Harger III

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.