Most people likely think their dating days will be far behind them when they are 70 or even 90 years old.
The documentary The Age of Love, coming to the Shatford Centre along with director Steven Loring on March 8, explores the dating scene of 70- to 90-year-olds in a speed dating circuit in Rochester, NY.
The idea for the 2014, award-winning film came about organically in Loring’s life.
“My dad had passed away, my mom was 70 years old and she was alone in life emotionally, for the first time ever really. She was struggling with ‘who am I ever going to hug again? share a meal with?’ There’s nobody in bed at night after a lifetime together with her soul mate,” Loring said.
That same year Loring’s uncle, in his 70s, who had never been on a date in his life as far as the family knew, had hit it off with an 80-year-old woman.
“They locked the bedroom door and they were kind of teenagers again. It was amazing to me to see all that was happening in the emotional lives of the people who were close to me in that generation,” Loring said.
He noticed in the media and popular culture that the assumption is after a certain age people are no longer interested in the whims of love.
“I could see that wasn’t true at all,” Loring said.
Loring saw the film project as an opportunity to change attitudes society has about aging.
“I’m middle-aged myself and when I was growing up there was only three generations and today, 70s, 80s, 90s people are still out there, at the gym, living, growing, living their lives in a way that is not the traditional golden years,” Loring said. “There’s I think a need to define what that fourth generation, that brand new fourth generation is all about.”
All he needed was a hook. As with most research these days Loring made his first stop at Google. He came across a speed dating event for people 70 years and up and was able to attain permission to embed himself in the event, with all the speed daters signing a release to participate in the documentary.
“It really gave me a window into not so much the baby boom generation, but the pioneers of the earlier generation, who grew up in the World War Two years who really never thought they’d be out there dating again, searching for love,” Loring said.
It was an amazing moment for him as a filmmaker seeing the excited responses when asking permission to film the participants.
“I thought they would be embarrassed, frankly, I thought maybe they hadn’t told anybody they were going to go, and as it turned out they told me ‘we’re invisible in the world. Nobody sees old people in terms of anything but medical care or financial services, nobody sees us as who we really feel we are inside.’”
It dawned on Loring that it was the opposite of his initial expectation, that there may be a lot of the older population who wanted to talk about their feelings. He looked into all different kinds of stories about seniors and their love lives, finding out who they were and what they wanted out of the dating experience.
“I learned that people don’t change very much inside in terms of our hopes, our insecurities,” Loring said. “It seems like when I first met these people they were sort of my idea of traditionally older people, but as the speed dating event got closer I could see their kind of teenage selves start to emerge. The women, when I came to film, would say ‘can you look at a couple of dresses I picked up and let me know which you think the men would like more?’”
One of the men asked his son to come up with a list of questions for the speed dates.
“You could see that even the people who said it was no big deal, just an afternoon activity, they were inside really feeling their youthful selves again. That somebody might like them, somebody might want to be with them, to know them spend time with them,” Loring said. “When I walked into the speed dating event itself it was kind of the sense that you were almost at the senior prom again.”
The film is now part of a study being conducted by UBC researcher Dr. Mary Ann Murphy, who will also be at the free screening which runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Shatford Centre. Only those 19 or older will be able to participate in the survey, but the film is open to all ages.
The study wants to hear how audiences of mixed ages respond to the film’s themes of love and romance. The discussion will take place in the form of focus groups, without any names attached, and is the first research project being undertaken on the film.
Those who have questions about registering for the study or about the screening can contact Dr. Murphy at 250-807-8705 or email@example.com.