Internet dating was not an option for Jordan Stevens.
A financial consultant, Stevens said he does not keep a computer at home because his work days are spent at a personal computer, and he does not want to conduct personal business on the job. And, after being out of the dating scene for seven years while he was married, Stevens, 38, wanted more insight into the singles scene than the Internet could provide.
So last year, he hired Lisa Ronis, a professional matchmaker, and joined other baby boomers who are seeking help as they look for a mate.
"It's nice to have someone to help you through the dating process," said Stevens, who has had relationships with three women he met through Ronis.
Ronis said about 75 percent of her clients are boomers, between 38 and 56 years old. Other matchmakers report similar statistics.
"There are a lot of boomers out there who just didn't pay enough attention to their social lives," she said.
Such aid doesn't come cheap, and that is one reason boomers make up the bulk of those using matchmakers and traditional dating services. Many young people can't afford matchmaker fees of between $4,000 and $25,000, and costs of as much as $4,000 for traditional dating services.
Internet dating sites preferred by Generations X and Y cost as much as $600 a year.
At Together and The Right One, two services run by the same firm, baby boomers make up 57 percent of the 100,000 clients. Meanwhile, about 80 percent of the 175,000 people using Great Expectations are baby boomers.
By contrast, people between the ages of 35 and 54 represented 43 percent of the 26.6 million visitors to personals Web sites in December 2002, according to research firm comScore Media Metrix.
Older singles say their social circles and pools of potential mates have shrunk as they have aged, and friends and colleagues have married. Baby boomers using traditional dating services say they seek the discretion and commitment-minded upscale singles that they believe these companies offer.
Anne Morgan met many accomplished, cultured friends through her 20-year marriage to a lawyer. When they divorced last year, Morgan realized she didn't know any single people of the same caliber, so she hired Chicago-based matchmaker Barbie Adler for $4,000.
"Barbie knows single people like my married friends," said Morgan, 47, who lives in Oak Brook, Ill.
Morgan tried the Internet briefly but found the amount of responses too overwhelming.
"It was entertaining for a while, but it was also a waste of time, Morgan said. "When Barbie calls, I know she put some thought into the match."
The matchmakers and dating services say they conduct extensive interviews with clients to determine suitable matches. Some say they conduct criminal and credit checks to ensure the quality of their memberships.
Lovelorn boomers seeking a shortcut to romance should also conduct a thorough investigation of services they are considering before paying any fees, experts say. Matchmaking is a $917 million industry, according to Market Data Enterprises Inc., and it is no stranger to fraud and lawsuits.
"These are businesses that prey on people's emotions. Some complaints have tear stains on them," said Dan Parsons, head of Houston's Better Business Bureau. "A lot of the sales reps at these companies have hard-core sales experience. They've gone from selling cars to selling flesh."
Great Expectations president Mitchell A. Brandt concedes that some clients may have some justifiable problems with his firm, but believes they are a very small minority. He maintains in dealing with matters of the heart, some people will inevitably be hurt, get angry and seek to blame someone for their unhappiness.
"If you meet someone, we are the heroes, and if we don't, we are bums," said Brandt, who says the key to successfully using a dating service is realistic expectations.
Great Expectations client John Parker said he has met several nice women through the service, although he has not yet found anyone particularly special.
"It is just another tool to meet people," said the North Palm Beach, Fla., resident, who said he was in his mid-fifties.
Parker also uses the Internet but has found that people often fudge the truth. He said one woman he met on the Internet led him to believe she was a lawyer, but she turned out to be a police officer.
Dating services say they cut down on the lying that can be found on Web sites, although they concede nothing is foolproof. "If people are going to come down here, sign up, pay money, you figure they really want to meet someone," Brandt said.