Rise of the silver gold digger

The rise of the silver gold-digger

By Liz Hodgkinson

Nadine Dorries wrote in her column yesterday of the men who have suddenly started to proposition her, at the age of 66. Four men in six weeks, with one whispering how sexy he found her over lunch! They sense she is emerging from the grief which struck after the death of her beloved husband in 2019, she concludes, and that she is radiating a new kind of openness and optimism.
Well, good for her.
But a word of warning, too. Far be it from me to rain on Nadine’s parade, but she’s not the only one to attract a proposition or two at a later stage of life. And they are not always a cause for unmitigated celebration…
To my continuing surprise, at the age of 79, I too receive frequent, and often very bold, propositions from older men. Why not, you might ask? I am single and unattached (I divorced my husband 35 years ago), in good health and reasonable shape from working out every day. But while they may be after me for my looks and personality, I believe the truth is rather more mercenary. I am convinced that what they want from me, at least in part, is not my scintillating company, but my money.
I don’t mean they are out-and-out scammers of the kind who reel women in online with lies about who they are. No, these are real men, our age or older, who see a well-off wife as a ticket not only to fun, but to a very comfortable old age with their feet beneath our well-laden tables. 
I have often written about the nice home I’ve lived in for 14 years, with its three bathrooms, and about my long career as a writer, and it’s my firm belief that a section of the male population sees me as a catch because of it.
It’s not just me and Nadine. My best girlfriend, a busy interior designer in her late 70s, is also always being propositioned. Another friend, 84, who recently published her first book to much acclaim, says she has an admirer who wants to marry her. ‘And he won’t take no for an answer,’ she told me, even though she repeats it often enough.
Therein, of course, lies the problem.  They see us as a catch, but also as women of a certain age who will fall at their feet once shown some attention - hence their confidence (and as Nadine has discovered, some of these men can be very forthright indeed). Yet rarely – oh so rarely – do we see them in the same light.
A few years ago, for example, a complete stranger sent me a message on social media. He said he was an Oxford graduate, had worked in international finance and now ran a publishing company. He wondered whether I might collaborate with him on a book about an interesting subject, so I arranged to meet him for a drink in a London wine bar.
The moment he walked in, however, it became apparent that where I had looked after myself and my money, he had not.
Dressed in old jeans and a scruffy jacket, aged about 70, within minutes of our meeting, he asked whether I’d ever consider getting married again. The ‘date’, if that’s what it was, did not last much longer. Later I discovered that this international financier and publisher was living in a bedsitter on the coast. After two divorces, he had hardly any money left.
Others have been similarly brazen. There was the seventysomething man who asked me for lunch having followed me on Facebook, only to tell me when we spoke on the phone that he had not worked since he was 50. We did not click and we did not meet, but it didn’t stop him sending messages afterwards saying he was ‘lonely’ and drinking a bottle of wine all by himself. Another man tried to pick me up on a bus, as though I was a teenager! Since Christmas, there have been two more approaches from provably real men, as opposed to catfishers, asking me for dates.
It used to be thought that older men targeted younger women, but it seems those days are over. Karen Mooney, who has run Sara Eden Introductions since 1988, says: ‘The goals have completely changed. When I started the agency, I was 30 and 60 seemed ancient. Now I’m in my sixties myself and have many older male clients looking for a partner of the same age.
‘Women are looking after themselves much better; they have had careers, led their own lives, have their own houses, are completely independent and can manage without men. Although unattached older men may be looking for a partner their own age without any ulterior motive, it is also true that many are hoping to find a rich widow.
‘If you are rich, you will be targeted whatever your age,’ Karen adds. ‘Whenever a man sees the word ‘widow’ on an online dating site, he thinks she will be loaded. Men can be vulnerable too, of course, and widowers will also often attract gold diggers. In general, since the pandemic, we have seen a huge increase in clients in their 60s, 70s and 80s.’
Sometimes, the women get burned very badly from this imbalance in financial clout. One friend who had been single all her life, and recently retired from her job as a head teacher in a private school, entered into a whirlwind romance with a chap she’d known briefly as a student and before long they were married. The union was a disaster, however, and after three years she filed for divorce. During the marriage, she had put her property into joint names and the upshot of the very expensive, bitterly-fought split was that the husband of very few years was allowed to buy her out and got her house.
With finances much depleted, she had no choice but to move into a retirement flat. It wasn’t a classic scam, but he certainly did very well out of her.
That’s not as unusual as it sounds. Another friend married a younger man believing she had found true love at last after two divorces, but when that marriage failed too, he also got her house, this time purely on financial grounds.
I’m afraid some solvent older women will always be prey to smooth-talking men who persuade them they are in love.
Despite it all, I hope I haven’t put Nadine off a return to dating. There is nothing to be lost from turning over ‘a brave and bold’ new leaf, as she puts it, and taking a plunge back into the world as it wakes up with the spring. But she should definitely know there are wolves out there too. The good news is they probably won’t bother disguising themselves because they truly believe they don’t need to – oh, for the confidence of a mediocre man, as the saying goes - but she should beware all the same.
So would I ever consider another intimate relationship? Yes, but very firmly on my terms. Firstly, they would have to match me financially, and secondly, I would have to be attracted to them. Neither of those things seem like very much to ask, do they? Good luck out there Nadine!


Daily Mail - March 2024