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Feb 16, 2013 12:31 PM by Associated Press

Online dating pays off for older couples

Cupid's arrow is as close as your computer and more people are joining the trend to find love on the Internet. Online dating is not just for the young; more seniors than ever are searching cyberspace for love and marriage.

Online Dating Magazine estimates there are about 2,500 online dating sites based in the United States and more than 5,000 worldwide. The largest U.S. sites are Match.com, eHarmony.com and OKcupid, although some sites based outside the U.S., like Plenty of Fish, have millions of U.S. members.

Local real estate agents Mary and Ed Daly met online through Friendfinder.com in 2001.

"I was living in Nashville, Tenn., and Ed was in Arkansas at the time," Mary said. Soon, they were writing letters every day and talking on the phone.

In August of that year, Ed called Mary to tell her that he was planning a trip to Nashville and that they should meet.

"I was so nervous, but we met for dinner and liked each other very much after meeting in person," she said. "Although we enjoyed our short time together, we didn't see each other until February 2002, although we did speak on the phone daily, often several times a day and became great friends."

Mary intended to relocate to Arkansas in 2003 when she was diagnosed with cancer.

"Ed was so wonderful and attentive to me, I just knew he was the one," she said. "We married in January 2004 after I was then cancer-free."

The Dalys moved to Green Valley in 2004 and say that online is a "wonderful way to meet someone."

Statistics compiled by statisticbrain.com found that 40 million people tried online dating last year and 17 percent of marriages in 2012 resulted from couples meeting through an online date site.

Many seniors are out of touch with the new dating scene. They may have married their high school or college sweethearts and returning to the dating scene after the death of a spouse or divorce can be daunting. That's where many seniors have turned to the Internet.

Constance and Bill O'Brien recently celebrated their fifth anniversary and they credit their meeting to Match.com.

"Three of my best friends threatened to disown me if I didn't get back into the dating scene," Constance said. "I was so involved in organizing events for my community of 425 residents in Tucson, so I wasn't aware I was even out of it."

Constance said that one friend visited the online dating site and found a "nice man they thought I'd like."

Although that match didn't work out, Constance says he remains a lunch friend to this day.

"I did go on dates with two more nice men after that, but then Bill emailed me through Match.com's double email address system in November of 2006," she said. "We emailed back and forth for a few weeks, then gave our real email addresses in late November."

"I retired in September of 2005 and since I had devoted my life to work that's really all I had," Bill said. "I mentioned that to one of my nieces and she told me I'd better start dating and I told her I didn't know where to start. I hadn't been on a date in over 30 years."

Heeding his niece's advice, Bill signed up with Match.com and although he said he had "a few false starts" he finally found Constance and they agreed to meet in early 2007 at a Tucson restaurant.

"The restaurant lobby was dark and someone called my name from behind," Bill recalled. "I turned and there she was. I took one look at her and I could feel the tension drain right out of me. It took but an instant and I knew she was the girl for me."

Both agreed they had a lot in common when they were getting to know each other. They are both from the Midwest, had fathers in WWII, served in the military and had been hospice volunteers.

"I have a life partner that I can trust, feel comfortable with, and who never lets the grass grow under me," Bill said. "We are in continuous motion going from one adventure to another ... Am I lucky or what?"

The two married in Tucson on Feb. 2, 2008.

The O'Briens say they recommend online dating under three conditions.

"You must be scrupulously honest about yourself, no photos from 10-20 years earlier and list your hopes and needs as they are now. Be prepared to make big changes in your life. After marriage, remember three things when you hit bumpy spots: commitment, compromise and communication."

Sally and Gregor Weitzel also met on a dating site in May 2004, but admit that they don't recall which one.

"We got married the following November and four days later my wayward granddaughter came to live with us for four months," Sally recalled. "That certainly established whether or not it was really true love, believe me."

The Weitzels moved to Green Valley in July 2005.

"We have been through my husband's diagnosis and treatment of stage four tongue cancer involving over a year a chemotherapy and radiation and then a year of recovery from the treatments," Sally said. "Now, he is doing great and we are looking forward to spending the rest of our lives in wedded bliss, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, in Green Valley."

Sally encourages others to give online dating a try.

"What is true now that wasn't back in 2004, is that there are many more sites," she said. "Some of them even specifically cater to mature adults. So give it a try - it worked for us."

Bob and Maggie Chestnutt said they aren't afraid to admit that they met online.

"My husband passed away at age 52 in 1993," Maggie said. "After a number of relationships failed to materialize into anything permanent, in January 2007, I decided to try online dating. My friends were certain I'd meet a pervert."

Maggie decided on eHarmony.com.

"Bob likes to say he found me on eBay - not so," she said. "Luckily, Bob, whose wife was also deceased, decided on the same web site at the same time."

There were a few obstacles in the beginning, Maggie explained.

"At first, we weren't a match," Maggie said. "I had a cat and he felt he was allergic and his age was also not in my search range. They persisted.

"Jokingly, we both say we 'lowered our standards' and we were matched," Maggie said. "Many of our 'must haves' and 'can't stands' were similar. We coasted through the email guidelines in just a few short weeks and eventually exchanged personal emails and then phone numbers."

If was a health scare that convinced Maggie she had found her man.

"When I had emergency kidney stone surgery and received a dozen red roses from a man I had not yet met in person, I felt I had found a keeper," she said. "It also didn't hurt that he was sending me photos of a new home he had built as well as several classic cars he owned. What a courtship."

The met in late March of 2007, were engaged in Breckenridge, Colo., in April, and were married in Waterloo, Iowa, on Sept. 1, 2007.

"Our six children all participated in our wedding," Maggie said. "We honeymooned in Hawaii, although the honeymoon continues."

The Chestnutts bought a home in the Villages of Green Valley in 2009, but recently purchased a new home in La Joya Verde, where they will spend the winters.

"We celebrate our good fortune each day and feel the good Lord had His hand in our relationship," Maggie said. "Second time around is certainly a blessing."

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