January 22, 2020
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Forget the apps, a Waldo woman is taking the guesswork out of dating for singles 55+

Courtesy of Peggy McKenna
Courtesy of Peggy McKenna
Deb Burwell

BELFAST, Maine — Deb Burwell, a 62-year-old single from Waldo, is looking for a few good men.

Burwell has a career she loves, lots of friends and plenty of hobbies. But she doesn’t have a romantic partner. It’s a situation she would like to change but acknowledges that it’s not so easy — especially living in a rural area where there are fewer options for dating. Previously, she met partners through college, work or social activities, but she’s finding it challenging to date at her age.

“It becomes more complicated,” she said. “We get quirky as we get older and somewhat set in our ways. It can be hard to figure out how do I even find someone who’s single? Would there be someone interested? All of that was just intriguing to me.”

The nonprofit consultant and professional facilitator briefly ventured down the path of online dating apps, but it wasn’t a good fit. It felt artificial to her, and when she was sent photographs of potential matches, she learned later she was “swiping” the wrong way.

“I wasn’t drawn to it,” she said. “It just didn’t feel like a good match with how I do things in the world.”

So Burwell, who makes her living helping to bring people together, decided to try her hand at creating something different: a speed dating event designed for people who are 55 and older. She wants the “Singles Mingle” event to be a place where singles can meet new folks in a casual setting, discover similar interests and participate in as many as 10 mini-dates.

Her inspiration for the event came two years ago, when she watched “The Age of Love,” a documentary about a group of seniors in Rochester, New York, preparing for a first-of-its-kind speed-dating event exclusively for 70- to 90-year-olds.

“I was struck by how much courage it took to do that,” Burwell said. “I came away saying, ‘It doesn’t matter what our age is.’ The interest is still strong for many of us in having an intimate or romantic relationship.”

She’s hoping to find more people who would like to participate in her first “Singles Mingle” event, which is designed for anyone who identifies as a woman who is interested in men and vice versa. In the future, she plans events for women seeking women, but has not had interest from men seeking men.

Twice as many women have signed up for the first event, said Burwell, who would like an equal ratio of men to women.

“Where are the men?” she asked. “It’s been harder to find men than women. This is an experiment — it may or may not work. It wasn’t that the women were all like, ‘yes!’ Many of them expressed some trepidation. The men, some of them have said, ‘OK, great idea!’ But they’ve been somewhat more reticent. People have said they don’t think there are single men. I say, ‘I disagree with you. I just don’t come to that conclusion.’”

In pursuit of men, she’s been leaving posters about the upcoming event at likely places, including Hamilton Marine in Searsport. If they take the bait, the idea is that participants will spend a congenial afternoon doing ice-breaker activities, such as answering light-hearted questions about themselves, in order to meet people in a low-key setting.

“What I’m hoping is there’s a way in which it helps people just be clear that the people who are showing up do want to date,” Burwell said. “I’m hoping this will take out the guesswork.”

The Singles Mingle event will be lightly facilitated and has a $35 fee per participant. Pre-registration is required by Friday, Dec. 6. The event is from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, at Nautilus Restaurant in Belfast. For more information or to register, contact Deb Burwell at deb@paddlingtherapids.com


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