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Sixtysomethings boosting dating firms' sales

NEW YORK -- Sensuous, intellectual woman, 5'3", adventurous, pretty and open, seeks a life partner who is sexy, highly intelligent, and cheerful.

That's the profile Mary Bellis Waller, now 64, posted on two Internet dating sites during her search for a companion.

Waller was a pioneer of online dating among people her age, and thousands of others 60 and older are also turning to the Internet to find romance.

They're bringing in unexpected revenue for online dating sites, which expect business to grow as many baby boomers find themselves single again.

"You don't have to be a beauty queen or a young babe to find interesting people on the Net. People think that their romantic lives are over because of age, but it has nothing to do with it," said Waller, a psychotherapist in Milwaukee who logged onto chat rooms and then Match.com after her second husband died in 1996.

She's now in a serious relationship with an executive-turned-farmer, but said she met dozens of other interesting men online.

Imatchup.com, a dating site with 2.5 million members, said the number of users 55 and older is rising as much as 30 percent faster than its total population. The online site will feature more seniors in ad campaigns starting this fall, said Stephanie Schwab, marketing director.

In August, more than 16 percent of those active on the top five dating sites, including Yahoo Personals and Match.com, were 55 and over, and more than 5 percent were 65 and over, according to Nielsen/NetRatings Inc. That's up from 15 percent in the 55-plus category and 4.8 percent in the over-65 group a year earlier.

Overall, the number of people active on top dating sites grew to 22.53 million in August from 22.28 million a year earlier.

Observers say one of the main obstacles in online dating for people 60 and older was overcoming their technophobia, but that seems to be fading as more people use computers and the Internet.

Of the nearly 148 million people active online in August, nearly 20 percent were over 55 and more than 7 percent were over 65, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

"Seniors are the fastest-growing online demographic overall," said Kaizad Gotla, an analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings. "It has been a challenge in the past, but they are becoming more comfortable adopting to the Internet. It really has become a necessity."

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