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[attach]4306[/attach]Anxious about dipping a toe into the dating pool? It can be hard in a big city like Toronto. But fret not: the water isn’t as chilly as it seems and there are more places to look for love than just the bar scene.

Singles in their 50s — and up — still have that “wow factor”, says professional matchmaker Cheryl Bursey.

As principal matchmaker and owner of Mars and Venus Matchmaking, Bursey has a natural aptitude for bringing people together. Prior to founding her business four years ago, she was a corporate headhunter in the marketing and advertising industry. The overlap between the two careers, she says, allowed her to hone her matchmaking talents.

Bursey arranges one-on-one meetings with prospective clients from her Forest Hill office.

The consultation, complimentary no less, lasts about an hour. Having gotten a sense of what her client is looking for in a partner, she turns to her computer and delves into her database to pull up a handful of promising matches. She then presents the potential matches — photos included (a rare practice in Toronto matchmaking circles, she says) — and a meeting can be arranged.

Her services cost $1,000 for the basic package and $5,000 for “executive treatment.” Those who opt for the deluxe package are entitled to coaching from Bursey, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

When asked to describe her 50-plus clientele, Bursey could only rave.

“They are incredible, active and sexual,” she gushed. “And they’re looking for the same things that people in their 30s look for.

“They want that incredible feeling of being in love.”

Bursey is a poised, striking brunette in her late 40s. Her voice retains a kittenish quality. She is refreshingly down to earth. And her life story is a testimony to the prevailing power of love.

Three years ago she lost her husband — an “amazing man” to whom she was married for 22 years — to brain cancer. Together they had raised three children. Despite the hardship she’s endured since his passing, she’s happy to report that she’s in a supportive and loving relationship today.

She lends her services to the movers and shakers of Toronto, occasionally even making house calls to clients’ cottages in Muskoka (where she owns a cottage herself). Even the Forest Hill Village BIA is trying to capitalize on her glamorous image: they’re preparing to mount an ad for her business in a local bus shelter.

Singles over 50 often have decent disposable incomes and are not encumbered by young children, mortgages or job aspirations. The challenge, they find, is figuring out how to actually go about meeting the love of their life.

There are a few pitfalls, technology being one of them. Many mature singles are suspicious of avenues such as online dating services, more so than people in their 20s.

Bursey believes Internet dating services are mostly safe, and even recommends them, but says that in order to be successful subscribers have to be persistent.

“I think people can meet someone on those sites, but it’s very time consuming (and) there’s a lot of misrepresentation,” she said. “I’ve heard the funniest stories: people post photos of themselves 20 lbs. thinner, 20 years younger.

“You really have to go into the situation being honest.”

Not to worry. If you meet in person, chances are you’re already quite charming. Honesty is the best policy. Give yourself some credit. The reality may be better than you think.

Bursey notes that her 70-something year old clients, for example, make for terrific company. They love going out and meeting people. And most importantly, they have an open mind.

“They have criteria, but they’re not as stringent in their list of wants,” she said.

Bursey doesn’t downplay the importance of physical attraction: there has to be a trigger. In fact, it’s her policy not to match people based on personality alone. A coupling with someone who’s very attractive and someone who is less so does not an ideal match make, she says.

“People usually say to me that men are more visual,” Bursey said. “In my experience, women are a little more forgiving — but not a lot more.”

So if you’re looking to re-enter the meet market, think healthy lifestyle, within reason of course. It’s all about presenting the best version of you. Good looks sweeten the deal, but the ideal candidate has a fit body and a zest for life.

Bursey says that men and women over 50 are really looking for partners with the same socio-economic background and who have been equally successful in their careers.

For the recently widowed, Bursey tells prospective clients to take time before entering the dating scene. But matching two widowed persons after an appropriate grieving period is a good idea, she believes. And she might take a woman who lost her husband to cancer and match her with a man who also lost a wife to cancer.

“That’s a good match,” she says. “They’re sympathetic to each other, they know where they’ve been (and) they would work really well.”

Cue the violins.