Allen Regier, 67, arrived early to pick the perfect booth at Stokes Grill and Bar. Regier recognized his date from photos as she entered the establishment. Peggy Serefko, 61, dressed in black pants, a white shirt, and a blue blazer. “Oh, my goodness, this lady is pretty,” Regier said to himself.
It took Regier about a year and a half to start dating after his wife passed away. After 43 years of marriage, the thought of putting himself out there again seemed daunting.
“I wasn’t sure how it was done anymore and didn’t want to embarrass myself,” Regier, a tall man with bright blue eyes, admitted.
Regier shook her hand, took her coat, and showed her to the booth. As the two sipped diet sodas, they conversed for an hour and a half.
“I was hooked,” Regier said. “I was going to ask her on a second date, but she beat me to it.”
Regier, like other seniors, is swiping right back into the dating game. Options for seniors to gather have expanded, whether meeting through a friend, class, or club. Popular dating apps are like a virtual bar in people’s pocket, making it that much easier to flirt with someone without leaving home. Online dating has changed the rules for a generation of Baby Boomers looking for love in all the right places in their golden years. The number of 55 to 64 year olds who hit up dating sites doubled from 6% in 2013 to 12% three years later, according to Pew Research.
Online sites have noticed.
Lumen, an app dedicated solely for single seniors, surpassed 1 million downloads in little over a year since its launch in 2018. According to the website, the oldest user is 97 years old while the average age is 56. Our Time, run by the parent company Match.com, saw 2 million users sign up for its 50-and-over site in 2019.
But minutes after setting up accounts with eHarmony and Match, Serefko deleted both profiles.
“I did not want to put myself out there,” Serefko said. “I heard about women being taken advantage of and that scared me.”
Serefko still didn’t feel secure in the online world so she signed up for Omaha Love, a matchmaking service, instead. Omaha Love provides background checks, meets love-seekers in person, and offers to set up dates.
“Seniors are not super tech-savvy, so having someone to facilitate introductions appeals to them rather than getting on a computer,” Courtney Quinlan, owner of Midwest Matchmaking and Omaha Love, believes.
After a second date, which led to a first kiss, Regier and Serefko froze their account with Omaha Love. This is basically the same as telling each other—hey, let’s be exclusive.
A few days prior to their sixth-month anniversary, Regier proposed.
“She didn’t even let me slip the ring on. She took it and put it on her finger,” Regier said laughing.
The wedding will take place in March, almost a full year after the two started dating. The couple plan a small wedding with about 50 people in attendance.
“You are never too old to get married,” Serefko said.
“Or fall in love. It is just as exciting at our age as when we were younger,” Regier added.
Mike Broyles, 65, could not agree more. In fact, the retired financial planner has been on hundreds of dates since his divorce 25 years ago. He chronicled his dating journey in his book, Combat Dating. It offers bits of advice such as “How to Avoid the Gold Digger,” “Money, Sex, and the In-Laws,” and the “Long Goodbye.”
Broyles’ approach to dating is from those vintage Dr Pepper ads, “drink a bite to eat at 10, 2, and 4.” He would mass date, meeting up with a different woman for coffee at 10, 2, and 4. Although he utilizes online sites such as Match and Facebook, Broyles believes becoming involved in social activities is a fantastic way of meeting others. This means thinking outside the comfort zone and doing something entirely new. Metropolitan Community College offers a wide variety of courses such as Beginners Yoga for Seniors, Self-Defense for Seniors, and Seniors Watercolor. The University of Nebraska at Omaha offers senior citizens a chance to audit classes. Another route is to dive into past passions. A book club, tennis league, or gardening master program helps singletons bond over shared common interests. Broyles plans on joining the Cornhusker Corvette Club now that he is an owner.
Places of worship are another great resource, since some have singles groups; but don’t take it too far. Broyles switched churches for a woman, only to later find out she wasn’t even a member. Volunteering is another way to not only give back to the community, but it could mean finding companionship. Broyles started helping out at Big Brothers Big Sisters two years ago, which luckily happened to be made up of almost all single women.
“There is always someone there that will catch my eye,” he said. “Some will, some won’t, so what?”
It isn’t just about love or marriage. Many times, the perks of dating are finding friends.
“The older we get, we find just having female companionship is more important than in your 20s and 30s,” Broyles said.
He reminds others to be financially, physically, and emotionally prepared for “combat,” since dating can be scary. Mistakes happen. Nonetheless, the fun outweighs staying home, especially for those who are older.
“I have never in my life been [as] sexually active than I have this last four years,” Broyles said.
Oh, and ladies, Broyles is once again single and ready to mingle.
This article was printed in the 60Plus section of the March/April 2020 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.