Women on the prowl for men a little younger


MOVE OVER Madonna, you old cougar you. Irish women aged 40 and older now share your taste for men in their 20s and 30s. One-third of single Irish women in their 40s are prowling for men at least five years younger, according to research by Parship, an internet dating site with 50,000 Irish members, writes KATE HOLMQUIST

“These are savvy, ballsy women in their 40s and 50s who know their own minds,” says Penny Lukats, public relations officer for Parship, which has nine million members throughout Europe. Her latest survey was conducted among 4,500 members in the UK and Ireland, with 900 Irish members participating. The survey found that in the past four years, the proportion of women looking for younger men has quadrupled.

“They’re not looking for toy boys. They want relationships. Their attitude is, if you are not desperate and you’re a bit choosy, why settle for second best?” Lukats says.

Older men in their 40s and 50s are perceived by women of their age as wanting a slippers-and- pipe-by-the-fireside lifestyle, while younger men are seen as “more energetic, more enthusiastic and more attractive”, says Dr Victoria Lukats, psychiatrist and member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London. She acts as consultant with Parship (and she’s also Penny’s sister).

Women looking for younger men aren’t looking for casual flings, but they don’t necessarily want a relationship in the long term either.

“They want a break from real life,” Victoria Lukats says. In her clinical practice, she has found that older women are more likely to break off a relationship with a younger man than the other way around.

Every month, 400,000 Irish singles visit dating sites – 80,000 of these are women in their 40s. Parship, which matchmakes through psychometric testing and excludes photographs until an online couple has agreed to take the relationship further, has found that four out of 10 older women seeking younger men are looking for something “steady, safe and secure”, while 60 per cent don’t expect as much.

Older Irish men in their 40s and 50s are coming from a different planet compared to their female peers. According to the research – only 8 per cent of them would date an older woman, 40 per cent of them want women at least five years younger and they are far more likely to judge a future partner on looks.

Younger men appear to be far more open to the possibilities. “The younger the man, the more willing he is to date an older woman,” says Penny Lukats. One-fifth of Irish men in their 20s and 30s say that they’re open to dating a women aged 40 and older.

Parship isn’t a flirting website aimed at casual flings. One-third of Irish Parship members enter a relationship lasting at least six months with someone they’ve met through the service, though Parship’s research can’t tell us how many of these happy couples are made up of older women and younger men. If you happened to meet one of these couples socially, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell either. Women in their 40s and 30s look so good these days that when they are with men in their 30s and 20s, nobody can see the age difference, says Victoria Lukats.

“Dating a much younger man has now become mainstream and acceptable. Perhaps this is down to the media reporting of celebrity age-gap relationships, or more likely, it’s due to the growth of internet dating where people realise that if they are more flexible in their search criteria, including age, they will have more potential matches. Internet dating also encourages people to focus on what’s really important in a relationship and for many women, their priority becomes finding a partner with whom they are compatible, irrespective of age,” Victoria Lukats says.

She does admit that, bringing a man in his 20s or 30s to a dinner or drinks party with friends of your own age, in their 40s and 50s, can be awkward. The “deal-breaker” though, is when a man in his 30s who hasn’t had children falls in love with a woman in her 40s who already has children and doesn’t want any more, or who has no children because she never wanted them in the first place.

But if you’re one of those 20 per cent of men in your 20s and 30s looking for an accomplished, confident older woman, you’ll be reassured by the fact that Irish cougars – older women looking for younger men – are far more interested in personality than looks, so good luck being hunted.