Due to social norms, middle-aged singles can be disadvantaged when it comes to finding that special someone.
Some of the difficulties that many singles older than 40 face are changes in friendships and financial problems, according to Patricia Hart, 62, member of the Social Organization for Singles in Williamsport.
"With a lot of the married friends, there is not a lot in common anymore and society sometimes caters to couples more, and sometimes they feel alienated," Hart said.
According to therapist Gwen Rosato, 38, Jersey Shore, "In this area there is not a lot for them (middle-aged singles) to do in order to meet people."
"My clients that are senior citizens, I can help them meet people, because there are groups for them," Rosato said, "But in the middle-age group there is nothing like that, such as support groups."
Rosato recommended that singles go to the gym, or a take a class that will allow them to "find people who have similar interests. Not necessarily to focus on dating, but a social support system."
"I think the best thing is to not focus on searching for someone, but to do something you want to do," Rosato said, "such as taking a class or finding a place where you would find like-minded people, and you might find a date or even just some friends."
Rosato and Hart both agree that women are more disadvantaged than men when it comes to dating.
"Sometimes for women it is harder because of the danger. The safety net is missing with women putting themselves into a position where they are vulnerable."
According to Rosato, the majority of singles older than 40 are emotionally depressed.
She believes this is because "there is too much emphasis on being in a relationship and being married. People feel pressured."
Hart advised singles to surround themselves with friends and "to keep busy."
"Don't sit at home and pity yourself. The more you network with other people, then the more you will have a chance at meeting other people."
Being a middle-aged single does not always have to be viewed as a negative thing.
"It can have a lot of positives. You are free to do what you want and do not have to take into consideration someone else's feelings," Rosato said. "You are not tied down from doing what you want."
There are many reasons for why middle-aged singles become desperate or depressed, she said.
"People that are in that age group, their kids are grown or almost grown and their friends usually have families," Rosato said. "So if you found a partner, then that would be someone to share your life with, provide you emotional support and try to relieve some of the loneliness."
Being desperate or depressed about being in a relationship, however, is "the worst time for someone to find someone, because they will settle and possibly end up in a bad relationship," Rosato said. "It's better for people to become comfortable with themselves, and be alone for a while."
"I was single for five years, and it can be depressing," Rosato said. "You have to be patient, because you can't force it to happen."
In regards to online dating, Hart said, "I think it is OK for some people," Hart said. However, "what works for one person, may not work for another. If it (dating online) doesn't work out, then that's OK too."
"I think it is OK as long as people are careful. It seems like eHarmony tends to have a good reputation," Rosato said.
"Personally, I would make sure you don't have to post a picture or use your full name," Rosato said. " And you can provide someone with a picture after you get to know them for a bit."
According to USA Today's Janet Kornblum, eHarmony is good for singles, "but only if you're emotionally healthy, heterosexual and want to get married."
Instead of being focused on finding a significant other, or if you don't want to get married, Rosato recommended pet therapy as a way of relieving the loneliness.
Victoria Stryker, executive director of the Lycoming County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, agreed.
"There have been studies that show pets can lower people's blood pressure and help when you are depressed," Stryker said.
"If I have a bad day and I just want to relax, and I'm sitting on the sofa, they'll come over and nudge me for petting," Stryker, said. "The love and affection they give me is a calming influence."
Hart, however, does not completely agree with the concept of pet therapy.
"Pets can't listen and share thoughts. Sometimes you need to vent to somebody and just getting if off your chest to someone who maybe is in the same position," Hart said.
"It's not as effective as having friends who are in the same position."
Rosato and Hart both are mothers and grandmothers and hold master's degrees.
Rosato received her master's degree in psychology from Loyola College, Md., and is an outpatient therapist for people of all ages. She treats clients with issues ranging from anxiety problems to those dealing with schizophrenia.
Hart is a retired health and physical education teacher from Jersey Shore Area High School, where she worked for 32 years. She received a master's degree from Lock Haven and Penn State University.
For more information about the Williamsport Singles Organization, visit www.socialorganizationforsingles.org.
Visit singlesdances.net for upcoming singles events.