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PART VIII: Seniors in love | June 15, 2014

Savvy seniors see the net gain

Once they overcome the stigma of seeming 'desperate,' they quickly take to finding a mate on the Web.

Leslie Bridgers

| Staff Writer
[email protected]

Are you quite patient? Always punctual? Keen on live theatre?

Those are some of the profile questions posed to users of OurTime.com, a dating site geared toward singles of a certain age.

Although we tend to think of seniors as less technologically savvy, plenty of Maine singles older than 65 are putting themselves out there online.

OurTime, a two-year-old site owned by Match.com, would not divulge their traffic figures, but a search for profile pictures of users between 65 and 100 in the Portland area yielded nearly 800 results. When the Maine Sunday Telegram asked a couple dozen of them to offer their thoughts about the site, however, almost all of them declined to talk about it publicly.

A stigma about online dating – not an aversion to the Internet – is the biggest hurdle to getting seniors to log on, said OurTime relationship specialist Terri Orbuch.

“They grew up in a period of time where online dating was not the norm,” she said. “The struggle is, ‘Is it okay? Is it a sign I’m desperate, I can’t find someone myself?’ ”

Once they overcome that concern, however, they’re very well-suited to dating sites, she said.

Seniors tend to be sure of themselves and of what they want, said Orbuch, which makes them more honest in their profiles and more decisive about their dates.

“They’re less willing to settle,” she said.

Part of that has to do with the lack of pressure they feel from friends and family to find someone, compared to their younger counterparts.

Almost half of online daters over 50 are looking for a serious relationship, according to a 2012 AARP study. Among OurTime users, however, only 8 percent in their 60s and 5 percent in their 70s are interested in getting married.

About 30 percent of OurTime users have never been married, while 54 percent are divorced and 15 percent are widowed.

For people who have lost a spouse to death or divorce, online dating can be a good way for them to “get (their) feet wet” after being out of the game for a while, said Orbuch. They can take their time to respond to suitors and even get advice from friends before sending a message, she said.

That’s how Bruce Martell felt when he decided last year he had gotten over his divorce and was ready to meet new women.

“It’s a very benign starting-out situation,” said Martell, 71, of Gray, who had just gotten seven “flirts” on OurTime that morning.

If he’s intrigued by a profile, he responds. If he isn’t, he doesn’t.

In the year since he joined the site, Martell has gone out with four women, none for more than three dates, but he’s not discouraged.

If he clicked with someone, he would get serious. For now, he said, “I’m kind of having fun.”

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