Any-age matchmaking as close as your mouse

Online matchmaking isn’t only for the 20-, 30- or 40-somethings. Plenty of older Web users are finding friends and mates in cyberspace, too.

“You’re never too old,” said Pepper Schwartz, love and relationship expert for AARP and author of 16 books about relationships and sexuality.

“I have a very good friend who lost a long-term marriage,” Schwartz said. “She met somebody by chance, and I reminded her it could work out again. She’s online and dating and she is 80 years old. She has that spirit, that aliveness that makes 80 seem like what 70 or 65 was not too long ago.”

Schwartz is quick to stress that marriage is not the only outcome of finding friendship online.

“I’ve been to some weddings (of people who met online) and I get the letters. And how good does that make me feel?” she said. “But I don’t think marriage is the only outcome. Companionship and good relationships are the goal. Is your life being shared with other people you enjoy and do you feel like you are not alone?”

No matter your age, there are a few safety tips Schwartz believes all online daters should follow.

Never give out your home phone number. That way, she said, if you meet someone who is annoying or you want to be left alone, you don’t have to change your number.

Never give your address, never meet anyone at your home and never, ever get in a car with anyone you don’t know. “Do your due diligence,” she said. “Google them. They’ve had a life somewhere and they have a job. It can give you reassurance that this person is who they say they are. If you find their face on a ‘Wanted’ poster, you may not want to go out with them.”

Be wary of requests. “If they ever ask you for money, don’t do it. It’s a scam,” Schwartz said. “I don’t care how wonderful you think they are.

” … You want to do this responsibly,” she said. “If you met (someone) at a cocktail party, you should do the same things.”

Schwartz, who is a recent addition to the AARP publications and Web site, said other parts of the Internet are also good for making friends.

“The power of e-mail can help build a relationship,” she said. “It is very powerful to write your heart and thoughts out to someone else.”

She suggests people check the social networking options on the AARP site, www.aarp.org/socialnetworking.

“It’s good just to contact people who share your interests. The more contacts we have, the healthier and happier we are. That’s social science, not just my opinion.”

Schwartz is scheduled to speak on sexuality and health at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at the AARP Vegas@50+ event, running Oct. 22-24 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

There’s still time to register for the event at www.aarp.org/events.

Share your Internet story with me at agibes@reviewjournal.com.

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