Joanne Leinow has been “divorced a million years” and admits to being “shy and fearful about meeting other singles for companionship and romance.”
But the 75-year-old southern Californian, who relocated to North Arlington to help her daughter and grandson, overcame her trepidation on Valentine’s Sunday to participate in the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia’s first senior speed dating event.
“The JCC always feels warm, comfortable and safe,” said Leinow, calling the event “off the charts in helping us active, fun-loving senior singles mix.”
The event was a follow up to last summer’s screening of The Age of Love, a documentary about senior speed daters, said Carla Rosenfeld, the center’s adult programming director. The film’s website gives instructions for organizing a senior speed dating event.
Ten men and 10 women are a necessary minimum for speed dating. Not enough men showed up for the JCC’s first attempt, so the program was rescheduled for Valentine’s Day.
Rosenfeld called getting men involved an “ongoing problem forever.” While 10 men did sign up, so many women registered for Sunday’s event that there was a waiting list. The age range of the participants was 60 to 80.
“There really has been a lack of programming for singles in this age group,” said Rosenfeld, adding that seniors are “anxious” to engage in social programs such as speed dating.
Many participants arrived early. Some already had pencil in hand, trying to figure out who they would check off in the yes column and who in the no column.
When the bell rang the conversations started. It was time to get to know each other — at least for the next five minutes before the bell rang again and the rotation began, with the guys moving to the next table.
“The idea is to consider a connection based simply on mutual attraction,” Rosenfeld explained.
The bell rang and the next speed date began.
“The experience for me was like being in dating 101, taking away my fears about connecting with strangers,” said Leinow. “It was so easy and enjoyable to [talk to] who I was with, the interesting face sitting across from me. Each time the bell rang to move it became a challenge to engage the new face and see if chemistry and life experiences matched.”