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Heather Foxx thrives on being active. She works full time as a resident services director at a health care facility, is an avid volunteer, a Timberwolves Senior Dancer, a pilates and barre teacher and a performer with Theatre 55, which features artists aged 55 and older.

She's also single.

The 58-year-old turned to online dating last summer. Twice divorced, Foxx hadn't been on a date in 13 years, but between marriages, she'd had success using apps. Things are different this time, she said. She had to regain her self-confidence before creating a Bumble profile, ultimately deciding not to overthink it. She wrote her "about me" in 10 minutes while watching a movie.

Her best advice? Be authentic.

"It's really difficult to be witty, funny, honest, humble — all in five sentences," she said. "It's hard to capture that about yourself without sounding transactional. My bio was based on self-deprecating humor, like, 'Oh, here goes nothing. I love honesty, humor, chivalry, volunteerism, empathy, and sports.' Those are my top things all rolled into a sentence. Hopefully, people read it and think it's clever and warm at the same time."

For those over 50, it might be their first time on a dating app or many years since their last online dating experience. According to a 2023 report from the Pew Research Center, one in six Americans age 50 and over said they have used a dating site or app. Only 3% of those in the same age range "currently use online dating platforms or have used them within the last year." While dating apps can conjure up a mix of emotions in people of all ages, one thing is for sure — what you write and the images you show on your dating profile are vital in making connections.

Make non-negotiables clear

Relationship coach Amanda Beilke said the burden of writing about yourself often keeps potential online daters from creating a profile. She suggests those struggling ask a friend or family member to help. They'll help you pinpoint qualities you might have overlooked. The biggest mistake, she said, is not writing enough and not making non-negotiables — things you won't compromise on for a relationship — clear.

"You want to answer the questions that allow you to tell important aspects of yourself," said Beilke, who is based in White Bear Lake. "Someone over 50 might be set in their ways and have more non-negotiables than someone in their early 20s because they've got a routine, a way of doing life that feels good, comfortable and safe. If they can identify what their non-negotiables are — maybe that's something like religion, or maybe they don't drink or smoke — that's really important. You don't want to waste your time with people completely against your non-negotiables."

Foxx said it's a no-go if she doesn't match with potential dates on religion and politics. At this point in her life, she said, the written word is more important than photos, and profile descriptions are vital in deciding if a date is in the cards.

Last year, while checking out potential suitors online, she came across this profile: "I'm a man. I don't have COVID," she recalled.

"That says to me they don't care very much about this, or they just are as deep as a mud puddle," she said. "Or if they put 17 emojis together — nope."

What piques her interest is humor, humility and chivalry.

"It might be generational," she said. "I don't think it's as important to the younger crowd, but for my age group — being raised in the '70s and '80s — gentlemanly behaviors are very important to me."

Anthony Souffle, Star Tribune

The big picture

You can't discuss creating a stellar online dating profile without considering photos. Many folks take them on their phones, which can produce quality images. However, others are turning to professional photographers to help capture their personalities.

Natalie Jennings, a Minneapolis-based lifestyle photographer, specializes in headshots, branding work for businesses and family photos. More recently, she's added candid and posed dating profile pictures to her repertoire. She treats those sessions like a branding session for a small business — the intention behind both is the same, she said. She encourages her clients to show what they love and enjoy. She's captured everything from a love of cars and writing to playing with dogs and the art of sabrage (opening a bottle of champagne with a saber).

"We got the cork and everything flying through the air, which was a lovely photograph from my perspective, but from a dating perspective, it was an interesting choice," she said, smiling.

If you take photos with your phone, Jennings says to use portrait mode and ensure the light is on your face, not behind you. And how to avoid holding up dead fish to prove your love of fishing?

"Have a friend take a picture of you at the end of the dock or sitting in the boat with your fishing stuff and looking warmly at the camera for a quick shot," she said. "People will get the point."

It's a definite skip when Foxx comes across those dead fish or shirtless bathroom mirror shots (which she has seen a lot). When picking pictures to post, she stuck to playful shots that captured her likes and personality, whether cheering at a Timberwolves game or playful moments with friends.

Fear of rejection

Beilke, who met her husband online, advises clients to avoid excessive bragging or complaining about exes in their profiles. She also encourages them to list 25 things they love about themselves and review it before logging on to a dating app. Because with online dating comes rejection, she said. When you remind yourself what makes you special, you aren't relying on what someone else sees in you to find your value.

"It can take courage even to hit publish on that profile because you're worried who's going to see it," said Beilke. "The way to get over that is when you stay focused on the outcome and your intention of what you're looking for, more so than what you fear. Fear can stop us in many ways, but when you focus on what goodness will come from this and stay connected to your intention and core values, the easier it is to overcome and put yourself out there."

Foxx has found matches online, some leading to in-person dates. She went out with one man seven times before the relationship fizzled. After that, she tweaked her profile, making it a bit more straightforward and a little less playful, emphasizing honesty.

"I want to be a combination of Wonder Woman, Isis and Mother Teresa all in one," she said. "Strong. Independent. Funny. Warm. But I'm not playing. No more games."