||Second Love at First Click
Natalie Friend, a marketing contractor at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., was 65 and twice divorced when she decided to try online dating. "My daughter met her husband," she explained, "my friend's son met his wife, my cousin met her husband -- all online."
She said she was looking for a "playmate" when she joined SeniorPeopleMeet.com, not husband No. 3. But a couple of months and $14.95 later, she met Mr. Right.
Make that Mr. Wright. Frederick Wright, 74, was twice widowed and living in Virginia Beach. He joined SeniorPeopleMeet.com to find a companion who, like him, enjoyed travel and the arts. In October 2009, Ms. Friend met him for dinner. He was a bit older than she desired. But he loved opera. He seemed honest. And he had just sailed his boat around the world. The date lasted six hours.
Ten months later, Ms. Friend and Mr. Wright married at the Boxwood Inn in Newport News, Va.
"At our age," she said, "you don't have much time to waste."
If you think online dating is the domain of the young, maybe it's time to check in with your mother. Now, people 55 and older are visiting American dating sites more than any other age group -- up 39 percent in the last three years, according to the Internet tracking firm Experian Hitwise. The No. 2 group? Singles 45 to 54. According to IBISWorld, a market research firm, and the United States Census Bureau, about 37 percent of people 50 and older are unmarried. And the divorce rate among the 50-plus demographic is high. With so many older Americans unattached, living independently into their later years, and increasingly comfortable using the Internet, they, too, are logging on for love.
And they may be better at finding it than their younger cohorts. Dating industry professionals say that singles in their 20s and 30s are typically focused on marriage and starting a family, while older singles (many of whom have been married before) have a more relaxed approach and are careful to pick companions who share their interests.
"Baby boomers have been one of the fastest-growing demographics for a lot of online dating companies," said Caitlin Moldvay, an analyst for IBISWorld. The growth comes at the same time that some younger singles (18 to 34) are moving away from dating sites to social networking sites like Facebook as "a proxy for online dating," said Bill Tancer, the general manager of global research for Experian Marketing Services.
Greg Liberman, the president and chief executive of Spark Networks -- which owns specialty dating sites including JDate, ChristianMingle, BlackSingles, SilverSingles -- said that for the first eight months of this year, Spark had a 93 percent increase in new members 50 and older across all of its dating sites, compared with the same span of time last year. "We're seeing significant growth," Mr. Liberman said.
He's also observed that, while it's been common for parents to buy dating site memberships for their adult children, now adult children have begun buying memberships for their widowed and divorced parents. Gone is the heyday of personal ads in The New York Review of Books.
Niche sites like SilverSingles and OurTime (which also includes dating profiles from SeniorPeopleMeet.com and SeniorsMeet.com) are capitalizing on the demand. In addition to pooling people who want to date within their age group, the sites provide extra hand-holding for people who have been out of the dating game the last decade. For instance, SilverSingles encourages members to call its customer-care representatives for help with setting up a profile. The site also emphasizes safe online dating practices given that security is one of the biggest barriers to entry.
For a generation that found love without the aid of computers, this is a brave new world.
Janet Conner, 52, divorced in 2009, lives in Richmond Hill, Ga., which she described as a small, family-oriented town. To widen the dating pool, she joined eHarmony in July. And while she hasn't gone on any dates yet, she's hopeful.
"I last dated in the early '80s, and I see this as a tremendous vehicle," she said of online dating, "an opportunity to meet people that I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet. It makes the world a little smaller."
And it holds the promise of second chances. "If you get married at 50," said Gian Gonzaga, the senior director of research and development at eHarmony labs, "you can look forward to 20, 25 years of marriage." Having spoken with a number of baby boomers for his book, "Dating the Second Time Around," he thinks many of them are better equipped than younger singles to finding a perfect match. "They have this deep comprehension about what's important in a relationship," he said.
On a recent afternoon, the Wrights, from Virginia, were in a hospital room explaining over the phone that sharing interests bonds couples. "The more things you can do and enjoy together, the better you're going to be able to hang out for the tough times," Mr. Wright said. "My left foot is up on a bed with an infection," he continued, "we're not in the best of conditions right now. But we're having fun. We're still laughing."
Mrs. Wright interrupted him. "This time I was smart," she said. "I married my best friend."
It is this kind of happily-ever-after that has children encouraging their widowed and divorced parents to try online dating.
Bruce Garelick, 58, was married to his college sweetheart for 32 years until she died of cancer in 2008. Cydra was his 4-foot-11 "spitfire," the mother of his son, Jason, 26, and daughter, Kimberly, 28. Mr. Garelick said that, when Cydra was sick, she told him, "If I ever go, you have to move on with your life." Yet when she died, moving on felt impossible. Mr. Garelick said he gained 100 pounds, didn't shave, didn't want to see anyone.
Then, in June 2009, his daughter suggested that he try online dating. In short order, she was beside him as he logged onto JDate. "I never thought I'd find somebody again," said Mr. Garelick of Roslyn, N.Y. "I was just going through the motions."
But within five minutes of joining JDate, he received a message from Ilana David-Klein, 54, whose 10-year marriage had ended in divorce. Like Mr. Garelick, she had a daughter, Keren, 26, and a son, Yoni, 24. Mr. Garelick and Ms. David-Klein decided to get to know each other through marathon phone conversations (one lasted eight hours) about politics, music, sports, recipes and life as empty nesters. Weeks later, they met for lunch at his house where they said it was love at first sight. Ms. David-Klein was about to go on vacation, and Mr. Garelick had made her a goodie bag that included Pepperidge Farm cookies, a pillow for the flight and a mezuzah that had been given to him for his bar mitzvah. "I never thought I'd find my other half after my first marriage," Mr. Garelick said. "I thought that was it."
On Dec. 18, 2010, they married at the Garden City Hotel in New York. Their daughters walked them down the aisle, and their sons helped hold the wedding canopy.
Getting to that aisle had not been easy for either of them. Ms. David-Klein (now Mrs. Garelick) had been online dating for years. "I met guys who shaved 10 years off their life," she said, explaining that many suitors had lied.
Turns out, it was worth the wait. "I was a single mother for 17 years and, yes, you can still find your soulmate and your love," she said from the home she and Mr. Garelick now share. "Don't give up."
(Source: The New York Times 10/06/11)
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