Cloverdale senior Arlean Friesen wasn’t the least bit surprised when her beau, William Newstater, got down on one knee and proposed on Boxing Day, less than a year after the 86-year-olds met through an online dating site.
“We talked about everything under the sun,” the senior said of the countless hours she and Newstater spent over the previous months getting to know each other. “I knew it was happening.”
But while it’s estimated one-in-five relationships start online, and that the use of online dating has jumped 40 per cent amongst adults 50 years of age and older, it was an avenue of meeting companions that Friesen hadn’t experimented with before.
She said she was inspired to give it a try last spring – her husband had died the year before, and she wanted to find someone to share her life with again – by the success of one of the pastors at her church who had met his wife that way.
Marriage was not at the top of her mind, however.
“You go with an idea that you have a friend only,” Friesen said. “You can’t think of it any other way.”
But even though she knew that others had had positive experiences with online dating, the Cloverdale resident had some hesitations with the concept, and chose to make the foray without creating an official profile.
“That’s why I didn’t put my picture up, why I didn’t answer the questions,” she said. “I never signed up.”
Able to peruse other profiles regardless, she chatted with a couple of men. But it was Newstater’s photo – one the Calgary resident had posted of himself standing with his granddaughters – that really caught her attention.
“I thought that he looked so neat,” she said.
Her message? “I said, ‘I like your smile’.”
After sharing her photo via email – Newstater said he insisted that without a photo, he wouldn’t continue to correspond – the connection between the seniors quickly grew. They spoke on the phone every night, and travelled to each other’s hometown to spend time together, discovering along the way that they had many things in common, including a farming background and that neither liked the ocean.
“She’s cost me an awful lot of telephone bills,” Newstater quipped during a chat the day before the wedding.
The pair tied the knot on April 9, at Peace Portal Alliance Church in South Surrey.
Friesen said even before she met Newstater, she knew she wanted to get married again; to find someone to enjoy travel and other activities with.
“I don’t like being left alone and I don’t see the point of being alone,” she said. But, “you have to find somebody you can go with.”
According to information online, more and more single seniors are turning to online dating sites to find companionship.
For anyone venturing into that world, tips for keeping safe include staying somewhat anonymous in the early stages – create a separate email and don’t be too quick to share personal information such as a home address. If deciding to meet, pick somewhere public.
As well, online profiles should be honest, include a photograph or two and be up to date.
For Friesen, it was also important to start as friends.
“I think it only works if you become friends first,” she said.
Those who know the senior say they couldn’t be more positive and excited about how it’s all worked out.
“It’s so, so wonderful to see what can happen when you’re 86,” said Hope Hilstad, who met Friesen through church and attended the couple’s April 9 wedding in Peace Portal’s chapel.
“They’re so connected, you can just see how much they love each other.”
And while it may be Friesen’s fourth time at the altar, her perspective on the marriage is brand new.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s the first one,” Friesen said.
“It’s a new life, new start, everything new again.”