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Absolutely  dating mate

But many older singles -- some of whom have already been down the aisle -- aren't looking to exchange their single status for a band of gold.

"We are not aiming for great changes in the second half of life, but looking for fulfillment in who we are now," says Sharon Romm, a Seattle-based psychiatrist and author of "Dating After 50: Negotiating the Minefields of Midlife Romance." "Not everyone wants another marriage.

"If you have a life that you like and things you want to do and interests to pursue, maybe you don't want to sacrifice some of those priorities in order to be someone else's soul mate." This sentiment doesn't just apply to confirmed bachelors, either.

For many women, their careers and hobbies rank higher on their priority list than do romantic relationships, according to Belove.

But there are many ways for older Americans to meet and get to know one another, many geared specifically to their cohort: • Online dating and social networking sites, like , offer tuition waivers or discounted classes for seniors. Just as older Americans aren't letting the years stop them from dating, they're not letting it end their sex lives, either. The study published August 23 defines sex very loosely to include mutual activity that doesn't require intercourse.

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As Margaret Murchie, a 52-year-old realtor in Honolulu, Hawaii, a self-proclaimed independent woman who dates but has never been married, puts it simply, "They have to make me happier than I am now on my own." A 2003 AARP study of 3,501 singles aged 40 to 69 showed that about one-third of those surveyed were either in a relationship or dating one person exclusively.

A comparable percentage had dated one or more people in the previous three years.

But of those who were dating, just 8 percent listed "to find someone to marry" as their reason for doing so.

Indeed, 49 percent said they were simply looking for someone "to talk to and do things with." Of course, dating isn't always easy, particularly for those who may be dipping back into the dating pool after years on the sidelines. adults aged 57 to 85 surveyed for a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) reported having sex at least once within the past year: Among the oldest group of sexually active adults, 54 percent were having sex at least twice a month, while 23 percent reported engaging in sex at least once a week.

Someone might want a companion for going to concerts on Saturday night and not much more. "Many over 50 are no longer looking for that one person, that 'soul mate'," says Dr.

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Others might absolutely want -- or not want -- sex as part of another relationship." Dating dynamics More than a third of Americans over 50 are divorced, widowed, separated or have never married, according to a tally of statistics released in 2006 by the U. Philip Belove, a marriage and family therapist based in Bellows Falls, Vermont, who specializes in midlife relationships issues.