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Oldies hook on to dating sites

It did not take long for Herbert Bolsinger to make contact with 59-year-old Elke Bartsch from Berlin on FriendScout24, an Internet dating portal, and a nice correspondence began.

tabloid Updated: May 15, 2006 12:45 IST

It did not take long for Herbert Bolsinger to make contact with 59-year-old Elke Bartsch from Berlin on FriendScout24, an Internet dating portal, and a nice correspondence began. At some point they talked on the phone for the first time and then actually met for real - and today they are a couple.

Dating portals are booming on the Internet, and it is not just young singles using the sites, says Tanja Biller, spokesperson of FriendScout24.

"Of the more than 3.6 million current members at FriendScout24, almost 10 percent of all registered singles are older than 50," says Biller.

He emphasises the advantages of online portals like his own: Internet dating provides more potential partners to choose from, even while keeping the inhibition threshold for initiating a conversation low, since all members have similar chances.

Elke also learned to value the benefits of Internet dating portals. "At my age, apart from the occasional dance event, there aren't that many opportunities to get to know someone."

The size of the member base is not the only factor that differentiates between the good sites and the bad ones.

The setting of filters to "sieve" potentially attractive partners out of the masses must really correspond to the selected criteria, explains Falk Murko from the German consumer-testing organisation Stiftung Warentest here.

"If you still get people in your list who aren't really an option for you, then it is not useful at all."

Other criteria by which to evaluate online portals include costs, usage options, handling of contractual matters and last but not the least, the general terms and conditions.

The latter should be read through carefully to make sure that no unacceptable clauses are included.

In terms of costs, different operators have tried different approaches: many portals can be used free of charge - until it comes time to make active contact. Membership dues typically range between $9 and $50 per quarter. There are also certain portals that demand three-figure contributes for their services.

With so much diversity, it is not easy to sort the wheat from the chaff, says Jutta Kraak, chairperson of the Reutlinger Vereins computer oldies.

The 48-year-old gives computer courses for seniors and fears that the ignorance of newcomers can be exploited to make money.

"If you can't see right away whether and how much it costs, then I find it dubious from the start."

Some providers even specialise in "silver agers". Both charmage.de and 50plus-treff.de advertise their barrier-free layout and easy use. However, no dating portal can guarantee a successful partner search, Murko says.

The experts feel that the conditions are hardly as rosy as the providers make it sound. "Only two of the 19 test singles sent by Stiftung Warentest during their recent test found a partner," informs Murko.

For those who are interested anyway, it is a good idea to check out the site thoroughly, recommends Michael Doh from the German centre for geriatrics at the University of Heidelberg. Internet sites are often overloaded with content and advertising.

"Many older people get overwhelmed quickly by this flood of stimuli."