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Love after 70 – how difficult is it to find a partner when you’re single and over 70?

By all accounts, it’s not easy, but for the 80 or so people (including several high school students from Garden City Collegiate) who were in attendance at the Gwen Secter Centre Monday afternoon, May 30, watching a film about 15 men and 15 women making the attempt to re-establish a relationship with the opposite sex was a real eye opener.
The occasion was the viewing of a film titled “The Age of Love”, a film that was first released in April 2014. Since then it has gone on to receive hundreds of viewings around the world, most commonly in seniors’ centres similar to the Gwen Secter Centre.
The film traces the interactions of a number of seniors who live in the Rochester, New York area. Through candid interviews with a number of the men and women – all of whom were white, by the way, and of whom a certain number were evidently Jewish (although how many of the 30 were Jewish was not disclosed), the viewer is offered a penetrating glimpse of the different sorts of pressures that are brought to bear upon individuals when they’re interested in getting back into the dating game later in life.
Only one of the seniors shown in the film says that he is divorced. Of the others profiled, each of them say they had been widowed. Not all of those who had been widowed, however, say that their marriages had been happy ones.
What brings them together is an evening of “speed dating”, during which each participant is allotted five minutes to speak with each member of the opposite sex. Each participant has been given a card with the names of the others. At the end of the evening they are asked to hand in their cards, with the names of anyone whom they might be interested in meeting checked off. Subsequently each individual is sent a letter listing the names of anyone else who has indicated an interest in meeting them.
Following the showing of the movie, Elaine Stern, Program/Volunteer Director at the Gwen Secter Centre, introduced the producer of the movie, Steven Loring, who spoke to the audience via Skype. Loring explained that, of the 30 individuals who participated, 48 different dates occurred. The most number of dates that took place between the same two seniors was nine. Loring noted that no permanent relationships developed among any of the seniors who were in the film.

As I watched the film, however, I was struck by how deeply honest each of the individuals who allowed themselves to be filmed was in discussing their expectations, along with their assessments of what they, themselves, had to offer to someone of the opposite sex. (I suppose one might find fault with the film’s interest only in examining heterosexual relationships; so far as I know there hasn’t been a similar film made examining relationships on a large scale among LGBT seniors,)
The film opens with a very buff senior by the name of Lou, who says he’s 82. Lou is a dedicated bodybuilder who proceeds to pose for the camera in various bodybuilding poses. Later, after the speed dating program has been held, and the participants receive letters informing them how many others were interested in meeting them, Lou is crushed to learn that only one other woman has expressed an interest in meeting him. In contrast, some of the other men who were not in nearly as good physical shape as Lou prove to be of much greater interest to the ladies.
As one of the seniors notes, in reflecting upon what proved to be important in helping the speed daters decide whom they might like to meet: “What’s more important is their demeanour as they’re talking to you.”
Another woman says, “The ones I selected were the ones who didn’t talk a lot about their children or their grandchildren.”

Throughout the film though, the honesty that each of the seniors displays in discussing what they’d like to see in someone of the opposite sex is refreshingly candid.
During the speed dating sessions, one man tells the woman sitting opposite him that he’s had some bad experiences in the dating scene since he tried getting back into it: “I was fixed up with a woman who, by the end of the evening had had five scotch and waters. Another one said she liked to go to the casino three or four evenings a week – I can’t afford that. I took another lady to a hockey game. She fell off a stand and cracked her head. Now she has real problems.”
One of the women tells the man sitting across from here that she “had coffee with someone at Barnes & Noble and he said he didn’t want to have another coffee because he had an appointment. I knew I wasn’t quite the little chick he was looking for.”
Then there was Addie – quite the vivacious woman, who stands a fair bit apart from the other women shown in the movie. She liked to go skydiving with her late husband, she said, also that one time the two of them had been touring in Costa Rica when they were offered a ride by two men. “I was sure they were drug lords,” she observes.
Addie explains: “I travel, I dance, and I flirt. I’m out there having a good time – and I’ll never marry again!” (The movie never indicates whether Addie was interested in any of the 15 men who were at the speed-dating event. One of the final scenes of the film though shows her dancing energetically with a much younger guy as he dips her almost to the floor. Why did she even show up to the speed-dating event, I wondered – and did any of the men there check her name off on their cards? Just like Lou the body builder, would her physicality had been regarded as a negative trait?)

In contrast, one guy named Lou, who carries an oxygen tank around with him everywhere he goes, and who wears a hearing aid, is disarmingly honest about his physical impairments, saying that he’s not going to try and hide his disabilities. (He says that he could go without the oxygen tank for a time if need be, as well as the hearing aid, but he doesn’t want to try and pretend that he’s something which he’s not.) Lou ends up having three women indicate they would like to meet him – again, a confirmation that personality is far important than physical appearance – at least among seniors.

Some of the seniors offered observations about what it’s like to be in love later in life:
“I don’t think the feeling of being in love changes over time,” one says.
“Love comes in different shades and different forms as you grow older,” says another.
“Love is easier when you’re older; you’re just looking for the sexy guy when you’re younger,” suggests one woman.

Of all the men and women featured in the film, two hit it off the most: Janice and Jim. In one of the funniest scenes in the film, Jim is shown waiting for Janice to arrive on their first date. Janice is a little late and when she starts to approach Jim she suddenly stops and says to him: “You’re not the one I was expecting.” She turns around as if to walk away, when she suddenly pivots and admits she was just kidding, saying she wanted to give the filmmaker a real scare.
Janice and Jim engage in some real honest conversation. She says to him, “It’s hard learning how to be single again.”
But Jim notes that he has “a lot of friends in bad marriages,” so marriage isn’t always a better alternative to being single.
Janice says that she’s looking for “companionship, friendship, someone to do things with. “It’s hard to meet someone without going to seniors’ centres,” she observes, “but they’re not your peers.”
She asks Jim: “Is your heart less capable now than it was before?”
He answers: “My heart is even more capable.”
Janice says: “When you’re older you realize you can recover from loss.”
Jim says: “I don’t think the feeling of being in love changes over time.”
Interestingly, none of the men or women talk about having physical sex, although some say how much they enjoy having someone lie down next to them. Perhaps they were just being guarded in front of the camera, and although there were some references to physical attractiveness, it certainly didn’t seem to be much of a factor in anyone’s mind.

Later, in the question and answer session with filmmaker Loring, he had this to say about the men and women who participated in the speed dating session: “The people who tried it out came away feeling really empowered by what they had done. Everybody felt like they were back in the game now. A lot went on to find relationships, just not with the other people who had been in the speed dating program.”
Loring went on to explain the motivation that underlay his making the film: “I was looking for a topic for a movie and my dad had just died. My mom was alone, wondering ‘who’s ever going to hug me again, and who am I going to cook a meal for again?’
“Later that year an uncle of mine who had never been on a date in his life, and who was in his 80s, met a woman who was also in her 80s, and began a satisfying relationship with her. Their door was always closed.
“I could see that the social understanding of age where people think that people who fall in love at that age is ‘cute’ “ are misunderstandings of the feelings that seniors can have for one another.
“Inside, everyone feels the way they have all their life,” Loring noted. “The perception of age as people live longer needs to change.”

One final note: Elaine Stern now says that Gwen Secter will be attempting its own speed dating program at some point in the fall. She asked me to try and find some men to participate. (There’s always an imbalance of more women than men who are willing to come out to these sorts of things.) So – if you’re interested in participating and you’re a man over 70 or you know someone who you think might want to give it a try, contact Elaine, phone 204-339-1701 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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