Dating Apps Can Help Older Adults Meet — No Time Machine Necessary Young people aren't the only ones logging on to find love. For Anna Fiehler, a 56-year-old newlywed, online dating helped her find love after her divorce — but it was not without its challenges.
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Dating Apps Can Help Older Adults Meet — No Time Machine Necessary

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Dating Apps Can Help Older Adults Meet — No Time Machine Necessary

Dating Apps Can Help Older Adults Meet — No Time Machine Necessary

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Few things are quite so personal or so revealing as how people date. That's why we've focused all month on online dating - how we use it and how it changes us. And today, we finish that series with an American using online dating in late middle age. Her story's pretty common. A Pew survey says the number of people using online dating services between the ages of 55 and 64 has gone up 200 percent. Anna Fiehler is 56. She's a software engineer from Ohio, and she traces her history with online dating all the way back to the 1970s. Fiehler told us how she made the connection then and what happened when she logged on again decades later.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDREW BIRD SONG, "TRUTH LIES LOW")

ANNA FIEHLER: I joke, I did the first Internet dating ever (laughter). I was in high school in 1978, and I ended up being a person who was assigned to work on a computer station.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You will soon be receiving your new HP 3000 computer system.

FIEHLER: ...The Hewlett-Packard 3000. There were kids from high schools logging into the same system, and we started talking to each other. And so we would talk about video games.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPS)

FIEHLER: And the big surprise for them was that I was a girl. They'd be, that's so cool. I actually made friends with a guy from another high school, and we ended up going to each other's proms. We did a lot of dancing, and the theme of the night with Bob Seger's "We've Got Tonight."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE'VE GOT TONIGHT")

BOB SEGER: (Singing) Oh, we've got tonight.

FIEHLER: So that was the slow dance that wrapped up the evening for the prom that I remember us dancing to there. After high school, I joined the military and got stationed in Great Britain. And as it turns out, my future husband was there, as well. And so we were married for almost 20 years but separated in 2013 and then were formally divorced in 2015. Particularly with my age, it was a little more challenging to meet single people. And so being so comfortable with computers, it was completely natural just to set up a dating profile and see what happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FIEHLER: First, I signed up for OurTime, which is meant for folks over 50, and later tried Match.com. But then on both, it was a common problem for men in my age range to have fairly incomplete profiles. But the biggest problem was that I would get messages from men...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ELWOOD EDWARDS: You've got mail.

FIEHLER: And they would just talk about my looks. And I was really kind of disappointed because I'd always - I'd put a lot of detail into my profile. I guess, for me, that was one of the best things about online dating, was being able to have this kind of meeting of the minds first versus going to a bar and just walking up to person based on their looks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FIEHLER: On St. Patrick's Day, I got a like to my profile from a person whose name I would learn was Heinz Raidel. That prompted me to take a look at his profile. And so he said he liked time machines. He put in parentheses, I'm just checking to see if anybody's reading this far. (Laughter) And that made me laugh, so I sent him a message, and I said, you have a time machine? His response was great because he said, I wish I had a time machine so I could think up a clever response to your question (laughter).

We decided that we'd meet for dinner. He pulls up in his car next to me, and I remember looking over and him looking over at me and smiling. And I just knew in my head right then and there that this is going to be OK; this is going to be good. We saw each other constantly, then so we finally decided to make it official.

HEINZ RAIDEL: I give you this ring.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: As a sign of my love and faithfulness.

RAIDEL: As a sign of my love and faithfulness.

FIEHLER: We joke around about each other. It's, like - it's still just amazing to run into each other. And he's such an amazing person.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDREW BIRD SONG, "TRUTH LIES LOW")

FIEHLER: I definitely would never have met Heinz if it weren't for online dating, and I think it's a real opportunity for folks over 50. The computer and these applications aren't isolating. They're actually providing incredibly rich connections for people. And so I think you can really use this way of connecting with other folks in a way that is very enriching and can be really worthwhile.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDREW BIRD SONG, "TRUTH LIES LOW")

INSKEEP: Anna Fiehler and Heinz Raidel celebrate their wedding anniversary next month. We spoke with her on Skype. Our thanks to them and more than 1,100 people who responded to our survey asking listeners about their online dating experiences. Hear all of the responses that became part of our series What Makes Us Click at npr.org/dating.

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