Let’s be clear: dating is, often, a young person’s game. The majority of apps are designed for people born in the 21st century, and other places to meet singles – like a bar, for example, are places that more mature people don’t always frequent. So it should be heartening to find an app that explicitly states that it’s designed for a more mature audience. Someone who isn’t, perhaps, entirely sure what ‘Netflix and chill’ is, but still wants to find another person to cherish.
We can begin with an obvious problem. A lot of people who didn’t grow up with technology struggle to use it. If you don’t have a laptop, email address or smartphone – you won’t be able to use SilverSingles. Of course, some older people love gadgets, but it does make sense that there would be some issues. After I signed up I found that, out of my 11 initial matches, two had obvious spelling mistakes in their own names – 3cey, if that’s what it says on your birth certificate, I sincerely apologise.
Fortunately, I can use electronic devices, so I pushed on to sign up for the site. I couldn’t get past the first step without coming across something that some might find offensive – the app only gives binary options for your gender, excluding non-binary and intersex people. You can also choose to be matched with either men or women – but not both, which prevents bisexual and pansexual people from using the app without ‘picking a side’ – an option which will be a huge turnoff for many. If you are comfortable with either ‘male’ or ‘female’ and heterosexual/gay/lesbian match – this should not concern you, but if SilverSingles wanted a quick class on how to do better, I would recommend checking out Bumble’s setup, which is much more inclusive.
If you do decide to persist with SilverSingles, you’ll be taken to a quiz where you get to answer some questions about yourself and your prospective matches. Some of them are pretty straightforward – what’s your age, or what is/was your job. Other questions are a little more private – what’s your marital status? The options, incidentally, are “Never married, Divorced, Separated or Widowed”. Finally, there are some jarring, clearly tone-deaf and honestly, racist, questions.
If SilverSingles becomes a popular dating app and more culturally relevant, I imagine that there will be a deluge of fascinating think-pieces about the obvious issues surrounding asking users of a dating site about their ethnic background and religious beliefs, and then asking them to decide which religions and ethnic groups they would consider dating. In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I am a white agnostic.
Dating apps have given researchers the opportunity to study how attractive people of different racial backgrounds find each other, and the results are extremely interesting. A lot of people (from all groups) have preferences. But declaring that you will or will not date someone because of the colour of their skin is unashamedly racist or discriminatory. Likewise, it makes sense that people might want to date people because of a shared religion – in fact, there are sites that cater specifically to those people, like ChristianMingle or MuzMatch. However, if I, an atheist, said that I only wanted to date (for example) Jewish women, it seems strange, fetishistic and offensive.
We should also discuss the choices you have when selecting your own ethnic background. SilverSingles includes the options “Caucasian, Black/African Descent, Chinese/Southeast Asian, Arabic, South Asian, Latin American, Other”. SilverSingles is available in Australia, USA and Canada, all of which have native/indigenous/Aboriginal cultures that are excluded or made to use the ‘other’ button, which feels hideously colonialist. I appreciate that including all ethnic backgrounds would be impossible, but it all seems that the whole issue could be avoided if the quiz simply left out the racial and religious questions.
At this stage, setting up a profile had become incredibly laborious. The questions ranged from bizarre to offensive and I’d only completed 17% of the initial quiz. Fortunately, the next part was pretty straightforward: I had to rank statements about myself – things like ‘I can handle a lot of information at once’ and ‘I like making others feel good’. Not to seem too cynical, but it seemed pretty easy to make yourself look good. We moved onto hobbies and interests, and then I was asked to write about something I was passionate about. More questions asked me about my personality, which is something I’ve often found difficult: I can be both spontaneous and responsible, depending on the situation, and I can respect other people’s views if they’re different to my own, but the subject is important. I’m not going to ‘agree to disagree’ on terrorism, but I trust other people to make their own minds up on Marmite.
We move onto some heavier topics: smoking, drinking and children. It’s nice to see a dating site that recognises that being a parent is a huge part of a person’s life, but really, how many people over the age of 50 (the app’s target demographic) have children under the age of 18? It’s not impossible, but it does seem unlikely. Finally, SilverSingles then wants to know about your income and location to find people close by.
It would be easy to hope that, at this stage, your profile would be set up, and in fact, the app tells you that you’re ready to go. This is incorrect. You can view some profiles, but the photographs are blurred and you can’t ‘like’ or ‘unlike’ anyone, or message them. This content appears to only be available if you pay for the premium membership. There are three levels of premium membership: Light, Classic and Comfort. The cheapest option comes in at $27.95 per month for a full year, which makes you wonder how long the app thinks it’ll take for you to find someone you like.
To be honest, I found the app boring, confusing and not particularly user-friendly. The icons on the screen (from left to right) show your matches (with additional, confusing tabs at the top), then there’s a swipe left/swipe right function like Tinder or Bumble, then there are more random profiles, messages, and finally you can see your own profile. I could probably figure out how to use this, but I can also see the layout being downright off putting to many potential users.
SilverSingles is, as a concept, not a terrible idea. Loneliness and isolation are huge problems for older people, and understanding this and trying to encourage new connections is admirable. However, the execution of SilverSingles is mishandled and often offensive, and the whole site doesn’t seem fit for purpose. Simply put, I’d swipe left on the whole site.