"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. Census, 14 percent of Kalamazoo County's 250,000-plus residents were over age 65 in 2015. The local Area on Aging expects this figure to grow significantly.
"They have been seeing each other practically every day, and they're happy. 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. Phillips says the agency projects 80 percent more people over age 60 in Kalamazoo County by the year 2030.
Tammy, a Kalamazoo-area woman, has been searching for that special someone for a long time. 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. "It’s a paid service, where they do a background check and everything…
And then when they come live us and you get all that community and the support and relationship-building, you make friendships," Ardelean says.
"They actually seem to kind of blossom, come out of their shell. They have something to look forward to every day, so it really brings them out of their shell and perks them up a lot.” Loneliness, isolation harms A 2011 survey of 350 seniors living in Kalamazoo County showed 29 percent of them reported feeling lonely or isolated. The results were part of the Kalamazoo County Senior Growth Needs Assessment.
“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.
"They traded us with ‘Wonder Woman’ because our numbers were higher.” It's showtime A month later, on a sunny Monday in July, the Senior Center put on its inaugural speed dating event in a private dining-room at Jac’s Cekola’s Pizza restaurant in Portage, which the owners are letting it use at no cost. Twelve men and 12 women aged 65 and higher sit for conversation at cozy, round tables, adorned with fresh flowers. Every five minutes, a bell rings, signaling that it is time to switch. So is Tammy, the 65-year-old who had the disappointing experience with a matchmaking service.
'Was enjoyable' At the end of the evening, participants turn in a scorecard, indicating either “Yes” or “No” as to whether they wish to see any of their dates again.
That’s according to Cassidy Ardelean, the marketing manager at New Friends Memory Care and Assisted Living in Kalamazoo, where 60 seniors live.
“We have people that have been living on their own and don’t get hardly any socialization.