PODCAST: WMUK 102.1 NPR OF SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN
Not Just Love or Sex, But Companionship: Over-50 Speed Dating

by Earlene McMichael • August 10, 2017
kim-phillips-speed-dating-portage
Kim Phillips, Portage Senior Center Manager, at one of four senior speed dating events she organized during Summer 2017 after screening The Age of Love.

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HAVING A STRONG SOCIAL NETWORK HAS A POSITIVE EFFECT ON THE HEALTH OF SENIOR CITIZENS. But here’s the thing: Finding a partner and friends can be tougher for older adults.

Tammy, a Kalamazoo-area woman, has been searching for that special someone for a long time.

“I’m 65. I am divorced, and I have been on my own for about 18 years,” she says. “I’ve had some dates in between.” But nothing turned serious.

She’s even tried a matchmaking service. “It’s a paid service, where they do a background check and everything… It’s been three or four years since I signed up with them, and they never really got any matches for me.”

Gordon is a 78-year-old man from Portage. He says it’s been hard to move on after the death of his wife of over a half century, who died three years ago.

He has taken a few women out to lunch since her death, but he says he wouldn’t call that dating.

“When you’re married that many years as long as I’ve been, you figure you’re never going to find love again because it’s too big of a loss,” he explains, pausing, his voice beginning to crack.

“And to try to overcome that loss is a difficult thing to do.”

Playing cupid: Speed dating

Kim Phillips manages the Portage Senior Center. She’s heard similar stories from older adults as they seek to re-enter the dating world.

So in July the senior center started offering its first ever speed dating events to address the social isolation some older adults feel. There’s ones for people aged 50 to 65; another for those 65 and up. The response from women has been especially robust, resulting in waiting lists and, ultimately, more sessions added.

It’s only been a few weeks since launching, but speed dating has already led to some older adults no longer having to spend their days alone.

“We got a call from a gentleman who was at the first speed dating event on July 17th, who said he has made a connection with a woman that night,” Phillips says. “They have been seeing each other practically every day, and they’re happy. He said he almost didn’t show up to the event. He was so nervous in the parking lot.”

What was originally supposed to be a handful of speed dating events will now be many ones offered several times a year on either an every-other-month or quarterly basis, officials say…

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