Over 40 and dating online? Your guide to the best apps

5 min read

When you’re over 40, the online dating world can be tough. To help you to avoid the nutters, serial philanderers and creeps, we’ve rated a selection of online dating sites.

Bad dates with people we meet online have become the stuff of legend. But, for all the dates that end in fake emergency phone calls, it’s easy to forget there are many that end in true love. In fact, since eHarmony arrived in Australia in 2007, it’s seen more than 11,000 couples tie the knot.1

Here, we rate five popular dating apps: Tinder, RSVP, eHarmony, Elite Singles and Plenty of Fish (POF) to help you get started.

User experience:
Online dating doesn’t get any easier. Tinder creates your profile for you, with information from Facebook (but never posts to Facebook). Then, using GPS, it finds your location, and gives you a bunch of nearby possibilities. Swipe right if you’re interested and left if you’re not. Got a match? You’re free to chat.

Rated: Tinder is fast and convenient, and the Facebook connection lets you see friends you and your matches have in common.

Slated: Many users are in it for casual encounters only. In 2014, only 16% of users were over 34.2

Cost: Download and use is free. But, there is a subscription version – Tinder Plus, which lets you rewind your most recent swipe and search in a place you’re about to visit before you get there. It’s $12.99 per month for under 30s and $24.99 for over 30s.

User experience:
On signing up, build your profile step-by-step, entering photos, interests and what you’re looking for in a partner. Next, sort the winners from the losers by searching according to age, location or deal breakers. Does someone appeal? Send a virtual kiss – if one comes back, let the messaging begin.

Rated: The deal breaker search option and compatibility/psychological reports boost your chances of meeting Mr or Mrs Right.    

Slated: RSVP isn’t cheap. If you don’t get lucky early on, you could end up spending a small fortune. Also, wading through so many lengthy profiles can be tiring.

Cost: Users can search and exchange kisses for free. But, to contact others, you must buy stamps, which cost $5-$15. Extra features such as compatibility scores, are also available for between $14 and $30 per month.

User experience:
eHarmony’s unique  point of difference is the Compatibility Matching System. Users complete, not only a profile, but also questionnaire. Matches are then determined using 29 Dimensions of Compatibility that, according to eHarmony’s research, are vital to relationship success.

Rated: The long-term focus puts off players. Security is super-tight – you can even use eHarmony’s email system to communicate.

Slated: This one’s not for party people. You must stick with your allocated matches – there’s no window shopping profiles.

Cost: Setting up is free. But, for unlimited communication, you need a monthly plan, priced between $13.95 and $64.95 per month, depending on duration.

Elite Singles
User experience:
Like eHarmony, Elite Singles emphasises compatibility. Users receive three to seven match suggestions per day, worked out by a complex algorithm, based on relationship preferences, location and personality testing. You also get expert tips when setting up your profile. 

Rated: You won’t be mixing with fling-seeking 20-somethings as 90% of members are over 30 and 80% have university degrees. Every profile is manually vetted, so you’re less likely to meet a scammer or a weirdo.

Slated: Having a degree isn’t mandatory but, without one, you might feel a bit left out.  

Cost: For free, you can sign up, see matches, send expressions of interest and receive messages. But, to communicate, you need a paid membership, which costs between $22.95 and $89.95 per month, depending on features and length. 

Plenty of Fish (POF)
User experience:
Plenty of Fish gives you plenty of options. After completing your profile, you can search others, using a variety of filters – from eye colour to degree of easygoingness. But, if you’re more interested in compatibility, take advantage of the 33-point Chemistry Test. Also, users publish their intentions, so you know if they’re looking for a relationship or something casual.   

Rated: As the name suggests, there’s a massive pool of people to choose from.

Slated: This one tends to attract people seeking hook-ups. Don’t expect the quality control offered on eHarmony and Elite Singles. Anecdotally, it has a reputation for being the sleaziest of the bunch!

Cost: A standard account is free. However, an upgrade, at $10.18-$19.35 per month, promises to promote your profile and more than double your chance of meeting someone.

Top tips for successful online profiles

"The most important thing, when creating an online profile, is to be truthful and upfront," says Sue Yorston, Senior Manager of Quality, Compliance and Service Outcomes at Relationships Australia. "If you’re not, it can come back to bite you. If I put on there that I’m blonde and 21, whereas I’m really in my 60s and grey, well…The consequences of the virtual world are the same as in the real world."

As Billy Joel sang, "It’s a matter of trust". So, don’t be tempted to lie about – or exaggerate – anything. Spending your first date explaining your online fibs is not the way to put your best foot forward.

The same goes for photos. Ms Yorston advises keeping your photos casual. Meanwhile, Tinder’s in-house sociologist, Dr Jessica Carbino, says it’s helpful to “smile, wear bright colours, avoid hats and sunnies, and include animals, as well as travel shots.”3

In addition, when it comes to describing yourself, be aware of hidden online dating codes. “You might think 'fun-loving' means you like to dance or party,” Ms Yorston says. "But, it might be interpreted as ‘just looking for a casual encounter’ To make sure you’re sending the right message, be specific. In other words, if it’s dancing you’re keen on, say so."

And always remember to be mindful of safety. “Don’t give out too much personal detail, as you can inadvertently make yourself or your family vulnerable," Ms Yorston warns. “For example, do say, 'I like football', but don’t say, 'I support this particular team, in this particular location, at this particular time' each week.”

Good luck with your search.

Disclaimer: All fees accurate at time of publication but may be subject to change.

1 http://www.eharmony.com.au/about/eharmony/
2 https://www.choice.com.au/electronics-and-technology/internet/using-online-services/articles/online-dating-sites-review
3 Ama Daetz, ‘Sociologist has tips on how to get your tinder profile noticed’, ABC7news.com, 21 June 2016, accessed 21 July 2016, http://abc7news.com/technology/sociologist-has-tips-on-how-to-get-your-tinder-profile-noticed/1384089/

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This information is current as at 15/12/2016.

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