- Websites such as OurTime.com cater to singles over 50
- Woman calls dating site "candy store of people"
- Real estate agent says she was reluctant at first due to "horror stories" she had heard
- Sites say they offer protection, with background information collected on clients
Suzanne Forman enters a swanky Los Angeles restaurant with Todd Grodnick, a blind date she's only spoken to on the phone. The two are among a growing number of baby boomers who are going online to date.
"I mean I can't believe I'm 55," Forman said. "I feel like I'm still 20 or 30 or something. I still have the energy. I still have that spark. But I do have a lot of candles on my cake."
A study conducted for OurTime.com, a dating site catering to baby boomers, found unmarried people over 50 consider companionship more important now than they did during their 20s. But it's often difficult to find a good match through traditional connections such as friends and relatives.
"I was a vegetarian and one of the guys they set me up with took me to a Moroccan restaurant, and he ate raw meat in front of me, right next to me!" Forman recalled.
So Forman joined OurTime, which she said offers a "candy store of people."
"There has been a perfect storm ... of baby boomers who are single, with a growing number ... using the Internet and discovering that it's a way to be connected," said Dr. Gail Saltz, OurTime's relationship expert.
Another customer is Staci Dansey, a 61-year-old Newport Beach, California, real estate agent. "It's like my business, it's a numbers game. The more people I meet, the greater the odds that I will meet a guy who wants to have a loving, warm, serious, committed, monogamous relationship."
After her marriage ended, Dansey said her daughter and daughter-in-law suggested online dating, but she said she was reluctant because she had heard "horror stories."
But dating sites say they offer much better protection against stalkers, scam artists and worse, because they collect background information on clients.
A 2010 survey by eHarmony.com found the Internet is the most popular way for people over 50 to meet and marry.
"I've always thought the idea that the older generation is afraid of technology is overblown, because they now seem to adopt it, and adopt it in numbers just as much as everybody else does," said eHarmony's Dr. Gian Gionzaga.
Vange LeClerc, a widow, and Rob Foss, a divorcé, met through eHarmony in 2008.
"I had been married so long I had kind of forgotten the process," Foss said. "I was like a duck out of water."
LeClerc conceded online dating was "scary," but she said she found the process "less intimidating than going out and meeting someone at a bar."
Now the baby boom couple plan to make their online match permanent, with a Hawaiian wedding next year.