It is not just a cliche to say that men go for younger women–a trend that carries over to the online dating world. In fact, the data confirms the frustrated statement that I heard in a recent interview with a woman in her 50’s who said:
“All these old guys think they should have a young hottie and they are missing out on quality relationships with women in their own age range!”
I have heard this sentiment echoed by women over 50 who are looking for a committed relationship with a man close to their age.
One of the problems with online dating for older women is that age is used as both an identity label and a filtering tool in apps. This means that if men over 50 are seeking women the same age or younger, women close to their age will be less salient in their dating pool–even those that may be only one year older. Moreover, if people set their age filters at increments at decade and mid-decade points then it is likely that once a woman hits 50 she may experience a drop in potential men seeking her out and again at 55, then 60, and so on.
A closer look at the data on gender differences in online dating habits shows that the phenomena of seeking younger partners is not the biggest obstacle facing middle-aged women in the dating pool. Since men are openly “seeking” women close to their age until about 70 years old, one might suggest that the possibility of a woman finding someone close to her age still exists–though it may be more of a crap shoot.
The problem is just who men are open to connecting with, but rather who they opt to communicate with. When looking at who men contact and reply to, men consistently go younger, and the age range increases as they get older. In their 20’s, men are seeking women within 5 years either direction, but contact and reply to those younger–albeit only by 1 or 2 years. Throughout middle age, men reach out to women that are 5 years younger, and actually reply to women that are 1-3 years younger. So while men may be open to younger women–and may even desire them, their communicative practices suggest that they chat with women just a little bit younger.
If you were paying attention to the chart presented here, you might also notice that men are not the only ones who are seeking younger partners. While it is true that men skew younger throughout their life span, the data shows that once woman hit middle age they also increasingly seek and contact younger partners. However, when it comes to the communication point, women reply to men the same age or slightly older until they hit their 70s, and then they too are all about the young hotties…5 years their junior.
Fiore, A. T., Taylor, L. S., Zhong, X., Mendelsohn, G. A., & Cheshire, C. (2010). Who’s Right and Who Writes: People, Profiles, Contacts, and Replies in Online Dating. In 2010 43rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences(HICSS) (pp. 1–10). https://doi.org/10.1109/HICSS.2010.444