Searching for love over 60

BY BEN MARKS | JULY 20, 2015 5:00 AM

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Just because someone was born while Eisenhower was still president doesn’t mean they, too, aren’t looking for love.

On July 18, a group of seniors sat down at Devotay, 117 N. Linn St., for an afternoon of speed dating and, hopefully, romance.

The event, the first speed-dating event specifically for seniors in Iowa City, was organized by Iowa City Senior Center intern and University of Iowa senior Johanny Sotillo.

Sotillo, who began organizing the event during the first week of June, said she’s pleased at how it went.

“I think it went very well,” she said. “I got to talk to a lot of participants, and they said they were happy we put it together.”

Sotillo said they quickly formed a list of interested participants. However, the majority of the list was female, and Sotillo said they had troubles recruiting interested men.

Part of the issue was simply the generation’s unfamiliarity with the idea of speed dating, she said.

“A lot of women knew [about speed dating], but some of the men were hesitant of the word dating on it,” Sotillo said. “You tell them speed dating and even if they don’t know what it is, they don’t want to hear it because it has dating in it.”

Lori Letts, a resident of North Liberty and member of the Senior Center, said she’s pleased she attended.

“At our age, you don’t really have that many places to meet people, especially under a casual, safe environment,” she said. “It gives you an opportunity to get out and among people; you get out of your comfort zone a little bit.”

Iowa City resident David Fitzgerald, who heard about the event through a film screening, said that while he knew what speed dating was before he went, he never imagined doing it.

As a retiree, Fitzgerald said he tends not to plan out too far in the future. It’s still up in the air whether he would go to a second one, he noted.

Sotillo said organizers have plans to screen the documentary again and host another speed-dating event, and they have a waiting list of women ready. They still lack men, however, and Sotillo said they are working on recruiting more.

Senior Center program specialist Michelle Buhman, who aided Sotillo as she organized the event, said isolation in older populations is one of the biggest issues cities have when dealing with seniors. But, she noted, Iowa City handles it well.

“I think Iowa City is a unique community and offers so many things you don’t find naturally occurring even in just Cedar Rapids or Des Moines,” she said.

Iowa City was recently named by the Milken Institute as the No. 1 small-metro area in the country for seniors, and last week, Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in the White House Conference on Aging.

Long after the event ended, groups of people lingered, talking and laughing. Letts, who also stayed, said it was an afternoon well-spent.

“I got to meet a bunch of people and got to know a little bit more about them,” she said. “I figure if nothing else, you can make a couple more friends.”

But in the end, did she find love?

“There’s one or two people I enjoyed talking to and would like to maybe go out to coffee with or something,” she said, smiling.

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