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Ageless Love: Speed Dating In Missoula
Montana Senior News, Feb. 2016/March 2016
Last fall, eight women and eight men from age 64 to 87 gathered at The Silk Road in Missoula to embark on a romantic adventure none of them could have dreamed of four decades ago. Mostly strangers to one another, all were single; all were open-minded; all were willing to give speed dating a try.

By now, practically everyone has heard of computer dating. But speed dating may not be as familiar. Surprisingly, a rabbi living in Los Angeles, Yaakov Deyo, along with some associates in the entertainment industry, came up with the idea back in 1998 to help young Jewish singles meet potential marriage partners. Little did he suspect that his experiment would become so popular it would traverse America faster than you can sing, “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch.”

The speed-dating event that occurred in Missoula was similar to Rabbi Deyo’s concept. But undoubtedly the biggest difference between the two—other than the religion angle—was the age of the target audience. Missoula’s event was specifically geared to singles 60 and over. It was also based on the documentary film, The Age of Love, and the filmmaker’s recommendations for how to morph the speed-dating idea into an opportunity suitable for the divorced, widowed, and widower grandparents of those 20-somethings.  

“Living your life alone isn’t good for anybody. Many of the participants said they weren’t here to necessarily get married, but to find friendship and companionship,” says Kaley Burke, Director of Missoula’s Harvest Home Care. “This is about meeting people and being social. Elder speed dating isn’t just about falling in love. But if love comes out of it, that would be great, too.”

Sponsored by Harvest Home Care and The Village Senior Residence, this was the first-of-its-kind event for older Missoulians. Like in L.A., it involved a form of table-hopping for a series of mini-dates. In this case, each woman sat at a small table and a man joined her at her table for five minutes to ask questions of one another and get acquainted. Only first names and a number indicated an individual’s identity. No contact information was shared.

When a bell rang announcing time was up, the men moved to another table. But before the next pairing formed, all the participants took a moment to jot down notes about the person they had just met and record those impressions on a scorecard. If someone seemed appealing enough to make a date with, the Yes box was checked off. After an hour, that portion of the evening drew to a close. Ten people left but six lingered to mingle a while longer enjoying one another’s company and the Silk Road’s tapas.

Once everyone departed, the organizers collected the cards and tallied the responses. If a mutual interest was indicated between two people, they were notified in writing and given one another’s first name and phone number. From there, it was up to the individuals, not the organizers, to take the next step if they chose.

“Something we all have in common is the desire to find love and companionship, to make connections. We grow closer when we discover we have this in common,” says Sarah Bass Marketing Director for The Village Senior Residence. “It was wonderful to see how quickly everyone felt at ease. There was a lot of optimism. They sat down; they talked. I didn’t sense any awkwardness, hesitancy, or shyness.”

As Kaley added, “They were very much owners of what was going to happen in that moment.”

The overall feedback both women received about the pilot event was positive and encouraging with people reporting it was a really good entertaining time. Even if no dates were to ensue, everyone involved considered the event a success because it was so much fun. A sense of excitement filled the room and according to one observer, “a very contagious energy became palpable.”

Currently, the goal is to hold one of these events every other month for as long as the interest level holds. The next one is scheduled for Valentine’s Day at The Silk Road. Since there is room only for ten couples, anyone 60 and over who wants to register (including even those who have already participated) should do so soon on Harvest Home Care’s web site. The registration fee is minimal to keep things affordable—just $15 thanks to generous community sponsors who cover most of the event’s actual cost. Openings are on a first-come-first-served basis. After registering, participants receive an information packet to help prepare for the evening and what to expect.

A University of Montana professor who took part in the October gathering frankly shared the following advice with potential participants.

“Smile all you can. It makes people feel comfortable and puts them at ease. Then probe for something mutual that you can talk about. Like with any other social interaction, if you find a common thread, follow it,” he said. “Not everyone is comfortable doing something like this but don’t get uptight about it. You have nothing to lose. It’s only five minutes.”
For more information, contact Kaley at: 406-214-3053,, or visit
To watch a two-minute trailer for the film The Age of Love, use this URL: