Lots of people find themselves back in the dating game in later life. Whether you're looking for friendship, fun, or true love, online dating can be a great way to meet new people.
Like most things in life, you get out what you put in. Approach it with a positive, open mind and you're likely to have a great experience. That said, there are some mistakes to avoid...
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Mistake #1: You spend too long exchanging emails before you meet
Many post-50 daters are keen to have fun and get out there. Others who have been single for a long time, or have come out of a long-term relationship, find they put a lot of pressure on themselves. If you start wondering if the person you've met online is "the one" after exchanging a few emails, stop.
The truth is that no amount of photos or emails will tell you if there's a spark of attraction until you meet. Spend too much time emailing and you risk building up the person in your head – in other words, you construct a fantasy based on what you want them to be like, which can lead to unfair expectations and disappointment when you do eventually meet.
After three emails, go for a coffee or do something you have a shared interest in – such as visiting an open garden, or art gallery. Don't meet at a restaurant. You don't want the pressure of having to sit through an entire meal, and you can always arrange a second date if the first goes well.
See also: Five things women do that frighten men off
Mistake #2: You're not specific enough
Writing an online dating profile isn't easy but it's worth investing time on it – get it right and you'll attract more of the kind of people you want to meet, and less of those you don't.
Think about the qualities you desire most in a partner. You've lived long enough to have formed opinions and know what you do and don't like. Focus on the positives: "I'm looking for someone who enjoys going to restaurants, theatres, and shows," not "I don't want a boring, homebody type."
Many people fall into the trap of sounding like everyone else, and end up with a boring, beige profile. Who doesn't like romantic firesides, walks along the beach and spending time with friends and family? What makes you unique? What have been your favourite experiences in life? Be specific. Don't just say that you like to travel, talk about your favourite destination and why you love the place.
People who are passionate and positive about life are always going to be more attractive. That said, don't try to be someone you're not. It will only lead to trouble down the line – and while you're pretending to be someone else, you may miss out on finding the person who is perfect for you.
Mistake #3: You worry too much about your appearance
It's natural to worry about your appearance as you get older, especially if you were in your twenties the last time you were dating. Unless you're trying to attract someone much younger (which is never advisable), remember that the people you're dating will be older too, and have their own insecurities.
Make sure to post recent photographs: one full length, one head-and-shoulders (smiling at the camera) and an action shot if possible. Profile photos that demonstrate you playing the piano or downhill skiing get more messages. Interestingly, shots taken in summer also get more clicks.
Don't be tempted to upload a snap from 10 years ago, even if it is one of your favourites. Posting out-of-date photographs is one of the most common complaints amongst online daters. How would you feel if you went on a date with someone who looked 10 years older than their profile picture? Lie about that, and the person you're meeting might wonder what else you're being deceitful about.
Mistake #4:You forget to smile
Finally, most people want someone they can enjoy life with, so a shared sense of humour is a must. If you can make someone laugh in your profile, you're off to a great start.
Delivering one-liners on a date isn't necessary, but do let your sense of humour shine through. If you feel nervous, remember to smile – it helps put the other person at ease and makes a huge difference.