- The Washington Times - Monday, October 4, 2004

NEW YORK - Sensuous, intellectual woman, 5‘3”, adventurous, pretty and open, seeks a life partner who is sexy, highly intelligent and cheerful.

How old is this woman? In her early 60s.

That’s the profile that Mary Bellis Waller, 64, posted on two Internet dating sites during her search for a companion.

Miss Waller was a pioneer of online dating among people her age, and thousands of others 60 and older also are turning to the Internet to find romance. They are bringing in some unexpected revenue for online dating sites, which expect business to grow as many baby boomers find themselves single again.

“You don’t have to be a beauty queen or a young babe to find interesting people on the Net. People think that their romantic lives are over because of age, but it has nothing to do with it,” said Miss Waller, a psychotherapist in Milwaukee who logged onto chat rooms and then Match.com after her second husband died in 1996. She’s now in a serious relationship with an executive-turned-farmer, but said she met dozens of other interesting men through the Web.

Imatchup.com, an online dating site with 2.5 million members, said the number of users who are 55 and older is rising as much as 30 percent faster than its total membership. The online site will feature more seniors in ad campaigns starting this fall, said Stephanie Schwab, marketing director.

Match.com Vice President Trish McDermott said, “Online dating is as popular for seniors as it is for other age groups.”

In August, more than 16 percent of those active on the top five dating sites, including Yahoo Personals and Match.com, were 55 and older, and more than 5 percent were 65 and older, according to Nielsen/NetRatings Inc., an Internet research firm.

Overall, the number of people active on top dating sites grew to 22.53 million in August from 22.28 million a year ago.

Observers say one of the main obstacles in online dating for people 60 and older was overcoming their technophobia, but that seems to be fading as more people use computers and the Internet. Of the nearly 148 million people active online in August, nearly 20 percent were older than 55 and more than 7 percent older than 65, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

“Seniors are the fastest-growing online demographic overall,” said Kaizad Gotla, an analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings. “It has been a challenge in the past, but they are becoming more comfortable adopting to the Internet. It really has become a necessity.”

Chet Bayliss, 77, whose first wife died 25 years ago, said he “learned to be Internet savvy to get on Match.com” at the encouragement of his son, who wanted him to find romance again. It took him just a few weeks to learn to use e-mail and surf the Web, he said.

Finding a wife “was a kind of motivator,” said the Laguna Woods, Calif., resident.

He did find one, meeting Janice Stromme, now 66, in May 2003. They married three months later.

“I had never thought I would get married again. I pretty much had given up,” he said.

Online dating sites could do even more to make seniors feel more comfortable by “offering more hand-holding or step-by-step assistance and perhaps even offer coaching to help them register, use e-mail and write catchy personal ads,” said Andrea Orr, author of “Meeting, Mating (… and Cheating): Sex, Love and the New World of Online Dating.”

Older online daters appear to have different goals from their younger counterparts, according to a survey by Match.com.

It found that 26 percent of singles 55 and older indicated that they were looking for a commitment or marriage, much lower than the 55 percent for ages 18 to 29; and 60 percent for ages 30 to 39.


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