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|Amber Brooks • 9/30/16|
The Short Version: An easy way to make plans with new friends, Stitch is a global social network that connects mature people. With thousands of members ages 50-94, Stitch offers users the chance to travel together, attend movies, go to restaurants, and enjoy each other’s company without the pressure of it being a date. With the backing of a helpful staff, easy navigation, and years of experience, members can find their way to companionship.
We all fantasize about retirement, wiling away our free time in a rocking chair, perhaps learning how to sew or carve, and going through a slow sunset of days alongside that person-to-grow-old-with.
Unfortunately, old age is rarely so simple.
As you grow older, social connections sometimes weaken, and it becomes more difficult to meet new people. Loneliness is a significant problem for seniors; there are even negative health implications associated with lonely people over 60. Fortunately, the internet has an easy solution. Niche online communities offer a channel for finding friends or romance.
Stitch provides a place where people socialize, organize, and join together around different shared interests. Whether you enjoy rock climbing or opera, there’s a forum for you.
As Founder and Chief Stitching Officer, Andrew Dowling is proud of the website’s social mission and positive values. He spoke with us via Skype all the way from Australia to share what makes Stitch special. “It’s a small team, but everyone’s really passionate about making something that makes the world a better place.” He smiles and adds, “It’s a good place to work.”
A small technology company with big aspirations, Stitch does exactly what its name implies: it stitches people together.
In school, Andrew wrote his master’s thesis on social entrepreneurship, and then in his career, he put his ideals into practice by founding start-ups intended to improve people’s quality of life.
What would evolve into Stitch began with Tapestry, an award-winning social network aimed at seniors 75 and up. This networking platform for active retirement communities gained a large following in the U.S. and Australia.
“It was a product designed to help people who weren’t very tech-savvy get connected to their family, their community, and access services,” Andrew said.
But Tapestry didn’t quite solve the underlying issue of social isolation among older adults. What the Tapestry team saw was that even those living in large neighborhoods, surrounded by people their age, felt lonely. It became a common theme: retirees saying they have a lot of free time, but few people to spend it with.
“As you get older, getting lonely is part of that unless you do something about it,” Andrew discovered. “People’s social circles shrink.”
A regular dating site, even those aimed at seniors, didn’t really fit those people who were merely seeking a friend. Stitch was built to help. Geared toward companionship of all kinds, this website puts community first and dating second.
Today, Stitch has thousands of members ranging in ages from 50-94.
Companionship means different things to different people, and Stitch encourages that diversity of opinion. While about 50% of its members are looking for a travel buddy or group travel, others are looking for a walking partner, a fellow foodie, a book club, a friendly conversation, or even traditional date.
“They’re not necessarily looking for that jump straight into romance,” Andrew said. “It’s not so goal-oriented as it is when you’re younger.”
The site encourages branching out from the typical dating setting. To them, friendship is just as worthy and likely a networking goal.
Keeping it broad and friendly, the website focuses on open forums to organize events, activities, and travel experiences. Members post about and join local events, which can be anything from meeting for a movie or hiking up a mountain.
“It’s all driven by shared interests as ways to meet people, but none of that high-pressure environment of going on a date,” Andrew said.
Stitch fosters a natural, public, and group setting for socializing with ease. This website doesn’t connect people one at a time, but instead links many people together through commonality.
Like a typical dating site, members can see profiles, set up search preferences, and join discussion forums. It’s all very user-friendly. What makes Stitch different is that its staff helps you along every step of the way, offering tips for those who need some hand-holding online.
Another unique feature is the profile verification process that ensures that people are who they say they are. This helps protect members from scams and liars.
Because of the advanced age of some members, extra care is taken to make certain that all users can browse with confidence. Andrew wants to promote a safe and trustworthy environment, where you know you’re talking to a real person.
Also due to the age demographics, Stitch boasts a 2-1 ratio of women to men. This is atypical for most dating websites, which tend to be more populated by young men on the prowl. However, Andrew explains that “In the older demographics, women tend to be more engaged online.” Of course, it doesn’t hurt that women also live longer.
A site like no other, this socializing hub is ideal for adults looking for a companion. It’s safe, it’s user-friendly, and it’s a lovely place to meet like-minded people.
Coupling work experience in senior care and start-ups, Stitch was formed as a remedy to loneliness. This mission is near and dear to the hearts of the team.
“Team culture is very much driven by positive values,” Andrew said. He considers his company a social enterprise that strives to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives. This positivist attitude is positively contagious.
Solving widespread loneliness is no easy task, but Stitch continually gets better and better at building bridges and engaging members. Keeping older people active and happy essentially improves (and potentially prolongs) their life. This is a cause Andrew is passionate about — and he’s not the only one.
He tells us that behind the website is a team of people who are more than a little altruistic. “We’ve got this really strong focus on doing something good for the world,” he said.
With a determined, can-do approach, Stitch continues to establish itself as a trustworthy brand for a mature audience.
With its team split between Sydney, Australia and San Francisco, California, Stitch is a global enterprise. “Originally we were going to target just the US market, but it turned out there was quite a demand for this globally,” Andrew said. So the network grew.
This niche site doesn’t let location inhibit personal connection. Some small-town residents may sign up and find that they’re the first member in their area, but such members still can enjoy being part of the broader Stitch community online. Discussion forums and travel events are open to all.
“There’s a localized aspect but it’s also quite global as well,” the founder comments.
Stitch balances between a local feel and a global membership that’s active in all English-speaking countries around the world. Never too old or too big to learn something new, the site is always expanding and adjusting to better fit its members’ needs.
“We’ve got 40,000 members at the moment, but as we grow, we find more and more of a need to provide capabilities that add extra ability to some self-organizing groups,” Andrew said.
Stitch is part dating, part community, all fun. This website recognizes that people are different and want different things, and so it gives members the freedom to get involved in numerous ways. Stitch can get you a date, but it can also get you a travelling partner.
This niche site helps mature individuals live the life they envision, whatever that may be.
Easy and fun to use, Stitch facilitates making new connections, forming bonds based on common interests, and putting yourself out there in a safe space.
“Because we’re a really trusted community, everyone helps each other,” Andrew said. “One of the real themes for us over the coming years is how we leverage that trust and sense of positive community mindset to helping [our members] solve some of the challenges that they face as they live on their own.”