A speed dating session for seniors will help kick-off the new Family Wishes program service for the elderly in Kelowna.
The speed dating initiative will be open to people ages 70 to 99, hosted by Lorraine Calderwood, manager of Family Wishes Senior Care Programs.
The event will be held at the Ukrainian Catholic Parish, 1091 Coronation Ave., on Saturday, May 27, 2 to 4 p.m.
Registration deadline is Friday, May 19.
Calderwood sees the speed dating idea as a fun way to address a serious issue facing seniors today–living a life in personal isolation void of adequate socialization.
Calderwood said for people in that 70 to 99 age range, particularly those who have lost a spouse, life can be difficult and lonely.
Their lifelong companion is gone and often leads to lonely existence, evident in the sometimes loss of simple daily pleasures such as going to a movie, coffee shop or out for dinner.
“My goal is to see seniors happy. When I go to seniors’ facilities and see seniors sitting around a television watching cartoon, it breaks my heart,” she said.
“That’s not something I want to see happen to me, watching cartoons while everyone around me is sleeping.”
The speed dating concept comes on the heels of a documentary shown across the Okanagan earlier this year called The Aging Of Love, about the adventures of 30 seniors in Rochester, New York, who signed up for a speed dating event for the first time in their lives.
Calderwood has chatted up the idea with local seniors and encountered positive feedback.
“The people I’ve talked to get real excited. I am not doing this for people to end up getting married, it is about finding companionship,” she said.
“I tell them to just go with the idea, have fun with it. Have a laugh or to because laughing is good for the soul.”
Calderwood said each speed dating conversation will be for eight minutes, and she will provide conversation-starter questions to get people talking if they feel a bit nervous.
Calderwood’s Family Wishes program will officially start June 1 with program sessions Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon.
“I want to have a maximum of 10 people in a group so everyone gets to know each other and work on projects that can extend from one day to the next,” she said.
Her longer term vision is to add an afternoon group and to offer a program for those stricken with dementia on one day a week to offer some respite relief for caregivers.
The cost is $15/hour with Calderwood supplying all the program material needs.
Calderwood said her affinity for helping seniors dates back to when she was a teenager.
“I loved volunteering and working with seniors as a teenager. I just clicked with them,” she said.
After getting married and raising her own family in Calgary, her husband passed away, leaving her to decide on a lifestyle change for her and her two kids, then ages 14 and 16.
“One of my kids wanted to move to Hawaii, the other said Australia, and we ended up moving to Arizona because I had family there,” she said.
Her interest in seniors led Calderwood to purchase a seniors’ group home in the Phoenix area and later to open up a seniors placement agency with offices in two communities, Chandler and Mesa.
“I gave the idea of living down there five years and stayed six, and then it was time to come home. But Calgary was where my husband passed away so I didn’t want to revisit those memories, so I looked for where else I could find sunshine and nice weather, and that brought me to Kelowna.”
For now, Calderwood’s Family Wishes programs will be located at the Ukrainian Catholic Church. To sign up for the speed dating, call 250-801-7178 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.