How to beat dating anxieties for the over 50s

Strategies to help you conquer your nerves

portrait of a happy romantic...
The internet is making it easier than ever to get back in the dating game, but if you haven't been "back out there" for decades it's only natural to feel a few nerves. Here are some of the most common anxieties – and the strategies to help you conquer them.

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See also: Dating in your 50s-plus? What NOT to ask on a first date

See also: Dating after divorce - dos and don'ts

"I'm not used to talking to new people any more"
Maybe you've been in a long-term relationship and seeing the same social group for years, and you might have got out of the habit of spending time with people you don't know. If you're worried you've lost the knack of meeting new people, it might pay to find some common ground in advance and plan around that.

So if your new "friend" or online dating profile has revealed that you have a shared interest in art – why not arrange a date viewing an exhibition? This could take the pressure off and give both something to discuss. If you're both keen foodies, why not take a stroll round a farmer's market – with the option to go for a drink if things go well?

"I'm worried I've forgotten how to flirt"
If you find it difficult to speak to strangers, or are just out of practice, make an effort to interact with more people on a day-to-day basis. Strike up a conversation with the checkout staff in the supermarket (they can't run away), flirt with waiters or have a chat with other people at the gym – after all, you never know where it could lead. Once you've re-learned the art of flirting in a low-pressure situation, you'll feel more comfortable

"What if the conversation dries up?"
We all remember getting nervous and tongue-tied as teenagers, and if the last time you were dating was in your twenties then it's not unnatural to worry about that feeling returning. The best dates are those which flow easily with spontaneous conversation and laughter, but when there are nerves involved it can pay to have a few conversation starters up your sleeve.

Maybe ask "what's the most exciting thing you've done in the past year?" or "did you see any good films lately?" Moving the conversation onto neutral ground will give you both a chance to just enjoy one another's company without worrying about whether you're saying the right thing or not.

"Will he/she think I'm flabby and saggy?"
One of the perks of age is that we tend to care less about external appearance – but if you've been off the dating scene for decades then it's understandable to feel a bit of trepidation about what reception you'll get.

But unless you're dating a 25-year-old (you're not are you?) then stop worrying right now – your date is unlikely to be in any position to judge you, or even have the inclination to. Use a recent photo in your profile (not one taken ten years ago where you were two dress-sizes smaller). If it's a fear that you really can't shake, consider using the preferences in your chosen online dating service to specify that you wish to meet someone with a similar build to yourself.