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Modern romance: How the over-55s are finding a new lease on love

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Dating websites and apps are bringing a spark of romance to those searching for love later in life. It's just one of the findings of an investigation by the BBC into the dating habits of the over-55s.

Analysis by market researchers Mintel, commissioned by the BBC, shows that 35% of British people over 51 are single, at a time when the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce.

Despite this, the ONS said there has been a sharp increase in the over-60s tying the knot again, with the number of second-time brides and grooms increasing by 21% and 35% respectively between 2011 and 2012.

Meanwhile, the baby boomer generation has also discovered the possibilities of finding love online, with internet sites proving the fourth most popular way to meet a new partner behind family and friends, socialising or work, according to a survey conducted by Mintel of 2,000 people in the UK.

BBC local radio stations are telling the stories of how people are finding love a second time around - these are some of those tales.

Internet dating

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Dating websites are becoming popular among people looking for love over the age of 55

Mintel found more than one in five 55-64 year olds in Britain had met a new partner or date through a website or app.

Caroline - not her real name - turned to internet dating after leaving her husband of 25 years.

The 55-year-old from Tunbridge Wells in Kent said she has found the experience of online dating "liberating".

"I find it a very empowering and rewarding experience. I've gone out for drinks and met men who were really very nice," she said.

"I think I've been fairly upfront with people and said I'm a sensuous and passionate woman, whether it's food, love or sex.

"It's quite hard to write something about yourself and I think that's the first step - to really talk about who you are and what you want."

Second time around

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Image caption There has been a sharp increase in the over-60s tying the knot a second time

About 13% of those interviewed by Mintel between the ages of 55-64 said they had been in love with five or more people.

For Midge and Geoff, love certainly was better the second time around.

The pair, from Carlisle in Cumbria, are both divorced. Keen cyclists, they met at a tandem bicycling club 20 years ago.

Midge, 70, said: "I remember thinking to myself one day, 'I wonder if anyone will ever love me or make love to me again?' And I thought, 'probably not'. Then a year later, I met Geoff.

"I just sort of fell into it, head over heels. It was like being a teenager, I couldn't think of anything else. It was crazy for a time and when it all settled down, it was still exciting."

Geoff, 75, said his first impressions of his partner were how "young and beautiful" she was.

"After what I'd been through [in my previous marriage], she was a breath of heaven. If I live to 80 or 90, it will be a pleasure every day."

Coming out

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Image caption Coming out later in life has become a growing trend

The ONS have only recently looked into same-sex marriage statistics for the first time after they became legal in England and Wales last year.

It is yet to release any figures but initial impressions show coming out later in life has become a growing trend.

Stephen, 52, was in what he described as a "good marriage" with a woman, but after a chance meeting with a man at a party, he realised he had been hiding his true sexuality.

"The next morning I woke up and I realised I was smitten and once someone got a bit of my heart, that's when my perspective opened up and that's when I go an insight into myself," he said.

"I realised that I was gay-gay-gay. It was like opening Pandora's Box."

Image copyright Roger/Ross
Image caption Roger and Ross had their civil partnership converted when same-sex marriage became legal

Roger, 65, knew he was bisexual in his early 20s but didn't come out until years later for various reasons.

"I was in teaching, another was my parents would never understand and the third was I couldn't walk into Croxley Baptist Church again with Mr Right on my arm.

"So it had to be Miss Right and that's how I carried on my life."

After coming out, he met Ross, 71, and they became civil partners before marrying. Together they run an LGBT lunch club in Croydon called Silver Rainbow.

Age difference

It's in image often perpetuated in films - the older man with a flash car and a young blonde on his arm.

John, 65, was putting a failed marriage behind him when he met Angela, 37, at a club. Before long they were in a committed relationship, despite the age difference of almost three decades.

"There's this perception of older guys with young girls that are trophy brides and I daresay some of that goes on, but not in our case," said John.

"It's a relationship of equals, age is immaterial. The only time we think about it is if someone asks us."

"To tell the truth my mum wasn't really keen [at first]," said Angela. "But I said to her John was important to me and he was my partner and if she had a problem with that, we were going to have a problem.

"She realised he was just a nice guy."

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