Julie Ferman

Online Dating Discovers a New Age
by Nate Guidry
Online dating discovers a new age

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Barbara Stumpf was convinced she wasn't going to meet anyone.
At 65 and divorced for 18 years, she was resigned to spending the rest of her life alone.

Then she saw an advertisement for an Internet dating service _ eHarmony _ on television. A few days later, she heard another eHarmony spot on the radio. "I kept hearing this, and I wondered what it was all about," said Stumpf from her home in West Chester, Pa. "I was the last person that thought this was something I would do. But I kept hearing the advertisement, and this went on for more than a week."

After some trepidation, she took the leap. She joined eHarmony, filled out a personality questionnaire and waited for the responses to start pouring in.
It didn't take long for her to discover that she was not alone _ either figuratively or literally. Dating sites such as eHarmony are experiencing an increase in business from people 55 years and older.

Seniors, in fact, are the fastest-growing group of online users, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, an Internet research firm. Nielsen says computer users 55 and older account for 16.7 percent of all traffic to online personal sites _ the equivalent of 4.2 million unique visitors. At Yahoo Personals, those over 50 account for 21 percent of visitors.

All of this suggests that seniors are becoming more computer savvy and more comfortable surfing te Internet, which leads to their growing interest in online dating.

To that end, Deborah Carr, an associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University who has studied online dating interest among people 65 and older who had lost a spouse, reported in the Journal of Marriage and Family that romantic relationships among the elderly are on the rise simply because the Internet has made it easier for older singles to meet.

Stumpf is living proof of dating success in the virtual world. In short order, she received more than 10 "matches." And though most of the responses were from younger men, she was excited. She had gone from virtually zero interest from men to 10 in a matter of days.

"I had never used a dating service," said Stumpf. "I had met people through work and friends, but none of it had worked out. I was resigned to the fact that at my stage in life, my chances of meeting someone who would be interested in me probably wasn't going to happen."

Within a couple of weeks, using the Internet dating service, she received correspondence from the man who is now her husband, Karl Stumpf. The Lutheran pastor and corporate customer-service representative said he had been a member of eHarmony for about 10 months and was preparing to cancel his membership before meeting Barbara.

Karl Stumpf, 61, has three children from a previous 33-year marriage.
"Over those 10 months I went on about a dozen different dates," he said. "They were all nice women, but nothing clicked. I was looking for someone I could spend the rest of my life with, and I knew she had to be out there somewhere. I just needed to stay patient. ...

"Then I met Barbara. We exchanged e-mails and started talking on the phone and eventually decided to meet."
The couple met in August 2004. Three months later, she received an engagement ring. And in May 2005 they were married.

Barbara Stumpf said the entire experience was comfortable.
"When I first started, I thought it was funny that there were people looking for someone on the computer. Now, I tell all my single friends they need to get out there and meet someone. The computer will find matches for you and my friends are starting to take my advice."

Anita P. Miller, author of the Online Dating Journal, www.theonlinedatingjournal.com, which records online dating contacts and experiences, said more than 40 million people are using internet dating services. She estimates there are hundreds of

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