When you have been on your own for a few years (or decades) it can be challenging to take that first step to socialising and dating. Here’s our kick-starter guide!

Though many of us love the freedoms being single offers, deep down, many of us would be thrilled to find love again.

If you’ve been on your own for a while, that can seem both exhilarating and pretty scary. It can be challenging to dust yourself off, so to speak, and trust in the process. After all, wouldn’t it be easier to just stay single and not get out of your comfort zone? No!

There are plenty of men and women in their 50s and 60s who are single and keen to meet someone to form a relationship. Sure, they might not be in bars, discos and nightclubs like when we were in our 20s or 30s, but there are a multitude of ways to meet other singles these days.

There is plenty you can do to optimise your chances – and have lots of fun while you’re at it. The key is to keep an open mind, don’t put all your eggs in one basket, and remember to be true to yourself. Still, it can be that you’ve forgotten the art of putting your best foot forward on an online dating site, so here are some expert tips to help you get on the right track.

Elizabeth Neal, a Sydney relationship psychologist, says it’s important to feel confident about putting yourself “out there” and to be aware of any negative self-talk that might be going on before you go on dating sites. “Try not to foster any limiting self-beliefs such as, ‘No-one’s going to be interested in me’. Challenge those thoughts, ask yourself, ‘What is the evidence for that?’ Hear that dialogue and accept that it might be better to take a risk rather than listening to what’s in your head.”

Remember, you are not alone! Many 50 and 60-somethings are out there looking for love

Neal says it’s a positive step to assess where you are in life: if you have a good job, loving siblings, children and friends in the form of a solid support system, there is nothing to stop you from opening yourself up to love again. “Remind yourself that if you have all these people in your life who enjoy your company, you must be likeable,” she says.

This relationship expert advises that you need to stay focused, be resourceful and try not to be too set in your ways. “When you’re in your 50s, people will have had previous relationships, quite often their exes are still in the picture because of children, and so this new relationship is going to potentially be complex.

“It is highly likely that there will be other relationships that come with the ‘package’,” she says. “You need to be mindful to not be too set in your ways, it’s far better to be flexible to find the right person. Don’t look to having someone tick all the boxes.”

Neal is a big believer in singles being social to expose themselves to new situations, activities and online dating social networks so that the net is widened. “Do activities and things that interest you,” she suggests. “Often people in their 50s are less interested in the instant attraction scenario, they’re most interested in finding someone who is compatible, who likes to do the same things they do.

“Online dating is really good, but you need to approach it in the right way,” she says. “Be aware of scams, be objective about what online dating can offer,” she says.

“Talk to people about using the site, try and find out what worked for them,” she suggests. “It can have a really great outcome.”

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If you’re someone who has been hurt in the past or is sceptical about finding love again, Neal says there are things you can do to address this. “Develop an accurate trust radar,” she says. “If you’ve been hurt in the past, try to think along the lines of, ‘Alright, well, that has happened, but maybe not all people are like that. I’m a good judge of character and I’m not going to allow myself to be hurt anymore.’ It’s okay to be self-protective, but get the balance right.”

Is it a good idea to have a wishlist of the type of person you’re looking for, or is it better to keep your options open? Neal says research shows there is one thing women in particular want more than anything in a new relationship.

“Trustworthiness is hugely important,” she says. “A book by Dr John Gottman, The Man’s Guide To Woman, found that it’s the only thing that really matters. “If you don’t have that, it creates conflict and the relationship will break down,” says Neal.

“The rest is fairly objective. If your wishlist is about the values that are important to you that’s a good thing but if your list is only about materialistic things, that might not do you any favours really.”

The common mistakes single people make when looking for love again include being seduced by someone who is initially charming and attentive and boosts their confidence, but it’s all surface. Neal says they are often offering something that is very appealing to women. “They might say things like, ‘I’ll protect you, I’ll look after you’. When you’re at that early stage of the relationship your ‘love hormones’ go crazy, and it can overshadow what’s really going on. You need to ask yourself, ‘What is it about them that I admire and respect?’”

Another faux pas is not being yourself and therefore projecting an image of what you think the other person wants. Neal says it won’t take long for that to backfire. “Be true to yourself, take your time and don’t compromise your values,” she says.

It’s also fun to buy a gorgeous, sexy outfit, get a new hairstyle, buy a different coloured lipstick, but Neal says it’s also worthwhile – and costs nothing – to ask close friends to list three qualities about you if you’re feeling a bit shy about meeting someone. “Ask them for three ways to describe you in a positive way. You might find out things you never realised about yourself. Hearing that can really build your self-esteem.

“And finally, remember that human beings are relationship animals, it’s natural for us to bond with others. Every individual is worthy of a relationship,” she says.

 How have you found dating aged 50+? We want to hear about your experiences so write in the comment section below.