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UC project gives Canberra seniors a chance at love

Antony Perry

27 November 2017: Occupational therapy students from the University of Canberra recently played the role of matchmakers when they hosted a speed dating event aimed exclusively at older Canberrans.

Men and women aged 65 and over had the opportunity to meet a potential companion at the Senior Speed Dating gathering held on 16 November at the Belconnen Community Centre.

The event aimed to encourage ‘active ageing’ among the participants. Active ageing is considered a key strategy to remaining healthy and connected as people age, with social interactions being one of the strongest indicators of good health in people aged 65 and over.

The event, believed to be the first of its kind in Australia, was organised by a group of Master of Occupational Therapy students and their lecturer to open a space in which older people could socialise in the nation’s capital.

Participants had the opportunity to enjoy 10 short dates lasting a total of six minutes each, with prompt cards provided to inspire the conversation.

“We hope to create an opportunity for elderly Canberrans to meet others with similar interests so they can do things together,” University of Canberra Lecturer in Occupational Therapy Daniela Castro De Jong said.

“Doing things together, like going out for a movie, a coffee, or a walk around the lake, is beneficial at any age,” Dr Castro De Jong said. “For persons over 65 years old, in particular, meeting others through shared interests can improve quality of life and health and combat social isolation.”

Second-year student Anna Ye said she was excited to provide older people with a chance to recapture their youth by getting back on the dating circuit.

“It seems like a great and fun opportunity to provide social opportunities to a section of the population that is usually excluded from the occupation of dating,” Ms Ye said.

The event is inspired by the experiences of elderly people as portrayed in a documentary called ‘The Age of Love’.

‘The Age of Love’ follows the humorous adventures of seniors in America who signed up for a speed dating event for people aged between 70 and 90 years old.

It’s a tale of intrepid seniors who lay their hearts on the line to discover how dreams and desires change – or don’t change – from first love to the far reaches of life.

The experience of the event will form the basis of a research project to be included as part of the coursework of the University’s Master of Occupational Therapy next year.