Never too late to date: Seniors say yes to romance

June 10, 2016

“Who is going to touch me, climb into the cold spot on the bed, and share a meal with me?”

This uncomfortable conversation with his newly widowed mom launched screenwriter Steven Loring on a quest to learn about love among senior citizens. It resulted in the frank, sometimes funny, and completely unscripted documentary, "The Age of Love."

Meanwhile, Penn State Abington sociologist Beth Montemurro’s research on the evolution of sexuality raised questions about how relationships, feelings and desire change — or don't change — with age.

She thought "The Age of Love" would be an ideal device to connect Abington students and seniors so she invited Loring to screen and discuss it at a local retirement community and on campus.

The documentary follows 30 upstate New York seniors who sign up for speed dating — from their anticipation of the first brief meetings through resulting dates and what, if anything, followed. 

Abington student grandfather

Abington psychology student Lauren Blair wonders if her grandfather, who lives with her, wants companionship since he was widowed.

IMAGE: Penn State

“What do people do after they are widowed? You define yourself as a pair your whole life.”

-- Lauren Blair, psychology major, Abington

Sophomore Lauren Blair's plans to bring her widowed grandfather to the event fell through, but she attended with her mom and found it raised valuable questions.

“What do people do after they are widowed? If they have a companion, they can meet and talk,” Blair, a psychology major, said. “But sometimes they have no one else. You define yourself as a pair your whole life.”

Blair's response is exactly what Montemurro and Loring hoped to achieve, a deeper understanding about the lifelong desire for companionship and social engagement.

“It drives home how desire doesn't fade even when older people are perceived as less desirable,” Montemurro, a sociology professor, said. “It ebbs and flows and is manifested differently through the years. Validation of desirability remains an important concern for women and men.”

One Abington student said she was saddened by a woman in the film who was painstakingly choosing clothing and worrying about wrinkles before the speed dating.

"She said older couples think of each other as the younger version," the student said. "But she thinks if she meets someone now, they will only see her as old even though she has always been the same person inside.”

While the film was in development, Loring's own preconceptions almost canned the project. But a speed-dater he contacted for permission to include in the film unwittingly spurred him forward.

“She said, ‘I’m 74. My kids love me, but my own kids don't ask me what goes on in my heart. I am invisible. Bring your camera over,’ ” Loring recalled.

“I wanted to bring these voices out," he said. "It's about being human and how we endure.”

"Desire doesn't fade even when older people are perceived as less desirable.Validation of desirability remains an important concern.”

-- Beth Montemurro, sociology professor at Penn State Abington

age of love senior dating
IMAGE: Steven Loring

Students in the Abington Psychology Club promoted the screenings and hope to organize a local senior speed-dating event this fall. The Division of Social Sciences, Abington Cultural & Community Events, and the Academic Environment Committee sponsored The Age of Love program.

  • Beth Montemurro

    Beth Montemurro, professor of sociology at Penn State Abington

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 15, 2016