She'd had it with the whole online dating scene. So had he. What was online dating, he liked to say, but a high-tech version of the proverbial meat market? But hope springs eternal, and last fall, he thought he'd give it another go.

And so on Nov. 4, courtesy of eharmony.com, a grandfather from Carmichael, Calif., sent his first e-mail to a grandmother from Texas. Then they talked, day after day, for hours on end. They met, first in Phoenix, then in Northern California.

And the rest is a sweet chapter in the love story taking place between people past 50 and online dating sites.

"It's been amazing," said Mike Mannix, 65, a Carmichael businessman.

"It's been magical," said Patricia Newlin, 63, a marketing veteran who recently moved from Texas to Carmichael.

Romance-minded seniors are making hearts at online matchmaking sites go pitterpat with joy over soaring user statistics. At match.com, for example, the number of registrants 50 and older increased by 69 percent from 2005 to 2009, said match.com's Jaklin Kaden.

"I have a 71-year-old client who met a woman on the Internet," said David Wygant, a Southern California-based dating coach and blogger. "It's so different today. You can literally shop from the comfort of your own home you can shop, click and date."

Spark Networks, the country's top online personals aggregator and home of 30 niche dating sites, has seen growing interest among seniors, with the 50-plus demographic now representing 19 percent of christianmingle.com users, 12 percent of blacksingles.com members and 18 percent of jdate.com users.

"The online community is growing up," said Spark Networks' Arielle Wolin. "It's only natural. It goes along with dating in real life. People re-enter the dating world after a hiatus, and online dating is such a part of that culture now."

Remember when there was a stigma attached to personal ads, divorce, widowhood and, in general, life after age 50? The world has moved beyond, into the realm of energetic, technologically hip aging.

Joe Comisky is trying. The 61-year-old Sacramento, Calif., resident has what sounds like a love-hate relationship with online dating sites. On one hand, look at all the online possibilities; pages and pages of appropriately-aged women waiting for the right guy.

On the other, he said: "Dating now is like filling out a job application. It's not what I enjoy. I remember seeing that girl across the room who just made your heart skip a beat, but you were scared to death to talk to her. I miss that.

"That seems like a more natural way of meeting somebody. But we're in such a busy world."

Who said you can't meet someone the old-fashioned way, through shameless flirting with a total stranger? A word from a dating expert: Get over the fear of rejection, and go for it.

"I constantly see people 50 and 60 out on first dates," said Wygant. "You can tell from their body language. You go to the market, and you see older guys flirting with women. When you see someone you're attracted to, smile and say hello."

Wygant suggests a similarly proactive approach to online dating.

"Write a profile that's positive, not about being lonely and being a loser," he said. "Online dating is so common. Have an open attitude. Realize there are a lot of great people to meet who are just like you."

At 50 and older, everyone has emotional baggage. So here's another rule: Don't pretend otherwise.

"The thing about online dating is it gives you the opportunity to bare your soul on the phone," said Newlin. "By the time Mike and I met, we knew more about each other than people who'd been dating for months."

He makes her laugh. She makes him happy.

"This is it," said Mannix. "I'm done. She's the one. I'd bet my life on it."

Even though Newlin admits her grown daughters think the romance has moved too quickly, the two plan to be married this year.

"We're kind of crazy, but we're crazy about each other," she said.

Awwww.

(acreamer (at) sacbee.com.)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com [1].)