By Jan Schultz

SWF desires company of gentleman
between the ages of 55-70.
Possible short-term companionship
or long term relationship. No. 5X80.

This is a typical newspaper advertisement in a find-a-friend column. Every day thousands of older women browse these pages in search of a male companion. And many go online looking for the same thing finding websites like these:
*Hottest Senior Singles
*Mature Singles
*Dating Over 50
*Dating Services for Baby Boomers
*Date a Cougar
*Suddenly Senior Singles

If you are considering taking such a step, consider several things before moving forward. First, determine what type of relationship you are seeking. Some seniors just want someone to talk to, some want to have a partner to go with to movies, theaters and parties. The majority of seniors who advertise online have been married and lost their partners through illness or divorce and would like to be married again.

If you do decide to try online dating, keep in mind the following fair warnings. Be wary of senior dating sites that charge large sums of money or high membership fees, as there are many sites that would be glad to have you as a member for free. Never give your email address, home address or telephone number to a stranger you meet online. When you enlist as a member, create an alias and a free email account so you can maintain your anonymity. The same rules apply to newspaper and magazine dating sites.

“I always laughed at the idea of advertising to meet a man,” said Linda*, aged 62 but one day I just thought ‘what have I got to lose?’ and signed up on a couple of services. While I haven’t met Mr. Right yet I’ve had several interesting responses and might meet one of them for coffee.”

Maybe you’ve already met Mr. Right. Social networking sites such as Face book, My Space and Twitter provide the platform to reconnect with old friends. People across the country are making thousands of new (and old) connections simply by logging on to one of these websites. The same rules apply in terms of safety but may be more difficult to maintain due to the personal aspect of these sites. One local woman was “found” by a former classmate on a social site and has been enjoying a relationship with him for the past two years.

Not everyone is computer-oriented. If you are one of the many older folks who hasn’t learned or does not care to get involved in the world of computers there are other avenues for meeting people.

Many local churches have singles groups, which meet periodically for lunches and/or dinners and offer a chance to become acquainted with like-minded people. Or you can take a class at one of the local colleges, join a book group at the library, join a health club or become a volunteer at one of the many organizations that need help. Serving on boards also offers exposure for seniors since these groups are usually made up of older people.

“I’m still amazed every time I remember back when I met Harry at my volunteer organization,” said Laura, aged 65. “Neither one of us was really looking to meet someone so it just happened naturally. One night he walked me to my car since it was late and we just got to talking. Well one thing led to another and now we’re wonderful friends.”

“I didn’t have the guts to look for a boyfriend online,” said Carol, aged 62. She met her boyfriend at a wedding dance two years ago and now they’re inseparable. Her relationship is the typical May-December romance since her boyfriend is considerably older than she.

“Age is only a number,” said Carol. “It’s attitude that counts.”

How important is it to meet someone? Answers vary. Jane, a 75-year-old widow says that she isn’t really looking for a man. Her life is very full with friends, family and organizations. “Besides,” she added, “I worry that someone would ask me out that I’m not interested in and I wouldn’t know how to handle that.”

But Carol thinks that it’s wonderful to have someone to love. “Intimacy is important in a relationship,” she said, “and that comes in many forms like cuddling and holding hands,” She adds that “Love conquers all! When you feel in your heart that you’re loved, you can face anything.”

*All names used in this article are fictitious.