The number of single Singaporeans above 40 years old is on the rise, and they are getting new help to find love.
Dating agencies have begun holding more mass match-making events, such as speed-dating, tailored especially for older singles since they were given the green light to do this.
Previously, agencies accredited by the Social Development Network (SDN) were not allowed to hold events for people of a particular age group or religion, because that might appear discriminatory.
But demand from singles for dating events aimed at specific age groups or faiths prompted the Ministry of Social and Family Development to change its guidelines some time in the middle of last year.
"Agencies also told us that targeted events would be more effective," a spokesman said.
The Sunday Times understands that agencies must still cap the number of such targeted events to no more than a fifth of the total number of get-togethers they hold.
Interest in events for the over-40s has been strong, said agencies.
Latest available figures show there were about 184,000 singles aged 40 and above in 2010. That was an increase of more than 60 per cent from 113,000 in 2000. There are also another 253,000 people aged 40 and above who are divorced, separated or widowed and some of them may be looking for a second chance at love.
At the CompleteMe agency, 15 per cent of its 3,000 clients are 40 and above, a threefold rise from two years ago. Over at Lunch Actually, one of the biggest agencies, the proportion of older singles has doubled to 15 per cent in the last 10 years. Love Express has also seen 20 per cent growth in this group since 2010.
In the past, most older singles could turn to the agencies to find them a match only on exclusive one-on-one dates.
They found it awkward to attend large-group events with participants mostly in their 20s or 30s. Some older women have been turned away by agencies that say a fair share of men are looking for younger wives who can bear children.
Older singles have welcomed matchmaking events for their age group because these increase their chances of finding a partner. They say their expectations are different from younger people's and they tend to be less choosy when considering a mate.
"The women don't mind as much if they are earning more than the men," said Ms Michelle Goh, founder of CompleteMe. "Their standards are also different as they are more mature and look for intrinsic qualities instead of emphasising looks."
There are older men open to dating women in their 40s too.
Ms Violet Lim, chief executive of Lunch Actually, said older singles looking for love are also more ready to commit and settle down. "However, the flip side is some have emotional baggage from past relationships and may be more wary," she added.
Ms Deon Chan, managing director of Love Express, said her agency hopes to come up with more events for this group.
It did a survey and found that activities such as baking classes appeal to them as they give them more time to interact with others. "There is a growing demand and we want to meet their needs," she said.
CompleteMe said it has held religion-specific events for Christian and Buddhist singles and these have been popular too.
Raymond, a 44-year-old bank manager who declined to give his full name, has attended speed-dating events regularly for the past 15 years. Recently, he attended one for singles his age.
"I was so thankful as it's embarrassing to attend events with people in their 20s and 30s and seeing their eyes glaze over when they learn my age," he said.
A 41-year-old auditor gave him her number, but she has yet to respond to his invitation to go on a date.
He said: "I still hope to meet someone."