A successful senior citizen speed-dating event

Image of a man and a woman conversing at a table.

The fall semester senior speed-dating event on campus was a success and another will likely be planned in the spring. Photo courtesy of UWL students Marisa Johnson, Kayleigh Pauley and Sarah Balfanz.

Film director, faculty member to develop a lesson plan for universities throughout the country

A speed-dating event for senior citizens held on campus in November generated some national buzz — in addition to new relationships.

Coverage of the event has been picked up by U.S. News and World Report, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Wisconsin Public Radio, as well as other media and individual viewers as far away as Los Angeles, New Orleans and Biloxi, Mississippi.

A UWL class hosted the event, “Senior Speed Dating for Companionship 65+,” Wednesday, Nov. 28. It aimed to emphasize that love, attraction and friendship aren’t limited to a particular age.

Students in UWL Associate Professor Dawn Norris’ Sociology of Generations & Age class planned, advertised and conducted the event. It was modeled after the “Age of Love” documentary directed by Steven Loring. Similar events have been held across the country.

The NYC-based director of the film, who Norris had talked to by phone to help arrange the speed-dating event, saw TV coverage of it. He called Norris and now the director and Norris will be working together to develop a lesson plan for universities throughout the country. This will aid faculty at other schools in working with their students to set up similar events.

Norris is currently working out the details to potentially host another senior speed dating event on campus in spring. If interested in participating in the spring event, contact Norris directly at dnorris@uwlax.edu or 608.785.6771.

“Older adults want love and companionship in their lives, but there is rarely a central place for them to gather devoted to this,” explains Norris. “Social isolation is a common problem for older adults, so these events serve as a place for them to get out and have fun, meet new friends and possibly begin a romantic relationship.”

Speed dating is a fun, lively way to meet like-minded singles without a commitment, notes Norris. Whether seeking a companion or a soulmate, it is a chance to get to know a variety of interesting people in a series of five-minute chats.

University support for an increasingly age-diverse population

The speed dating event is one way faculty at UW-La Crosse are responding to the interests, needs and opportunities for the growing, aging population in the Coulee Region.

Earlier this year, UWL was designated as an Age-Friendly University — the first university in the state to attain the designation. The Age-Friendly University (AFU) initiative is an international effort led by Dublin City University to highlight the role higher education can play in responding to the challenges and opportunities associated with an aging population.

Five faculty members are part of the UWL’s Gerontology Emphasis Group, including Norris, and they are leading the charge of raising awareness and educating students about aging issues, along with building support for an increasing age-diverse population.