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Online dating is not just for kids, seniors say

As new technology becomes more and more central to our lives, online dating is finding a fresh new demographic in singles over 50. Meet Jo Ann and Brian, two seniors who found each other online and wed a year later.
/ Source: Reuters

Jo Ann Montrose-Eichelberger, 55, never thought she would meet her second husband on an online dating site -- especially not one for seniors.

The stewardess who lives in California said she signed up "as a joke" in March 2009. She had been divorced for about 18 years and was content being single, but an ad for the site sparked her curiosity.

At first she felt uncomfortable about even putting up her photograph.

"It felt like I was marketing myself. It was all new to me. At the time, I hadn't even gone on Facebook," she said.

The number of seniors — classified as anyone over 55 — using the targeted dating site is growing, according to, which says they attract 1,000 new members a day.

"The norms are changing for seniors meeting online," said Oakland University professor Terri Orbuch. "Now technology is becoming more central to our lives it is becoming more acceptable."

The number of seniors using the internet has risen to 17.5 million in November 2009 from 11.3 million in November 2004, according to Nielsen data.

Because she didn't take the idea of online dating seriously, Montrose-Eichelberger said, she made her profile "brutally honest."

People who needed anti-depressants to deal with life shouldn't bother contacting her, she wrote on her profile.

The first people who reached out to Montrose-Eichelberger were terrible, she said, as they were barely able to spell or string sentences together.

Which is why when she came across Brian Eichelberger, 57, she was taken by the fact he was a good writer and that he had held the same job, as a correctional officer, for two decades.

"For the over-50s, attitudes, values and stability are much more important than for 20-somethings," Orbuch said.

Seniors are more likely to have had a long-term, significant relationship in their past, Orbuch said, which affects the way they approach online dating.

They'll often know exactly what they are looking for, she added, and put a lot of value on spending time together.

Montrose-Eichelberger said that even when they are in different cities, she and her husband play online Scrabble together.

"We make it a date night no matter where we are," she said.

A poll conducted by the dating website found 54 percent of people would rather spend time with their partner than get flowers or jewelry on Valentine's Day -- an 80 percent increase in priority from when they were in their 20s or 30s

Though big, romantic gestures do play their part.

For their first date in the spring of 2009, Eichelberger, who lived in Fresno, California drove 2-1/2 hours to Malibu to take Montrose-Eichelberger out for lunch.

"I was surprised he would drive all that way just to have lunch with me," she said. "I was also a bit nervous. I'd never used a dating site before. So I made him some cookies to show I appreciated the effort."

They married a year later.