On the morning of Feb. 13, while many are finalizing their Valentine’s Day plans, a group of seniors west of Boston already will be in swift pursuit of a sweetheart.
They are participants in a novel program hosted by the Lincoln Council on Aging: speed-dating for individuals 65 and older. The popularity of the event, which is limited to 24 seniors and welcomes people of all sexual orientations, gives insight into the changing demographic of older adult daters.
“There was a wait list for last year,” said Abigail Butt, the council’s assistant director. “And there’s already going to be another one for this year.”
The festivities commence with each senior receiving a name tag marked only with a first name. Rotating through six-minute dates, participants mark sheets judging each partner as a romantic match, a platonic match, or not a match. Prepared questions such as “What’s the perfect midnight snack?” are provided to those who want them.
Butt collects the confidential sheets, determines compatibility, and mails out letters alerting participants of their matches. Participants are encouraged to reach out to matches within two weeks.
“Last year, every feedback was positive,” Butt said. “They had so much fun that they called me afterwards to let me know how the second date went.”
Only two of the 23 participants didn’t have a match of any kind, she recalled.
While speed-dating for seniors is still uncommon, the concept makes sense for this generation, said Susan Whitbourne, a gerontology professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
“Baby boomers are usually more open to dating and getting out there,” Whitbourne said. “They’re less traditional.”
Seniors today are more likely to be divorced than widowed, and many women are more apt to be educated and have worked in a professional setting than prior generations, Whitbourne said. These factors could contribute to an increased interest in dating among older adults, she said.
While dating might be the name of the game, finding a romantic flame isn’t really the goal of the program, said Butt. It’s to foster new connections.
“I remember being particularly delighted by how much the women who had never met each other enjoyed each other’s company,” she said. “There was this feminine solidarity.”Ysabelle Kempe can be reached at email@example.com.