Dating after 60: La Jolla Community Center class will offer tips for seniors and silver sweethearts

For senior citizens living alone and missing romantic companionship, entering the dating pool may present challenges. However, a new class at the La Jolla Community Center offers tips to sideline these challenges, with coaching from La Jolla-based matchmaker Michelle Galarza, aka Michelle G.

The classes are for those who have not dated for a while, whether because they’ve lost someone, they’ve been more focused on a career or because dating has changed with new technology.

The next "dating for seniors" class at La Jolla Community Center will be held 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014.

"Everyone's objective is connection," she said. "We all want to feel loved and that we have someone ... that we are not alone. But for seniors, what that means can vary. Some might not be looking to get married, but just to find a person to do things with and have a companion. Others want to find love and spend the remaining years of their life with someone and be in love.”

Step 1: Have a clear objective.

“What is it that you are hoping to achieve?” Galarza poses. Making one’s intentions clear, she said, is very important with seniors, because dating in their youth had a different meaning.

“Senior citizens come from an era when there were different means of courtship. A woman I was speaking with brought up a really good point that the relationships of her generation were pre-marital; couples knew they were going to get married because that’s what you did.”

Coming from that era, however, can also be a benefit.

“When you meet people of similar age, that makes dating easier because there are common topics you grew up with and historical events that open people up and act as conversation starters,” she said. (Think: Where were you when Kennedy was shot?)

Step 2: Attend events where seniors gather.

To meet like-minded people of a similar age, Galarza recommends places like the La Jolla Community Center, with programs already in place where men and women gather. Other options include book clubs and church events, and finding meet-ups where like-minded gather to partake in a particular activity.

She said she’s seen meet-up groups for wine tasting, hiking, and painting — all targeted toward older people.

Step 3: Have a few conversation starters ready.

When the stage is set, people still need to know how to open a conversation, how to approach someone they don’t know, and how to read body language. These skills are taught in Galarza’s classes.

Step 4: Approach online dating sites with caution.

For seniors who are computer-savvy, there are online dating sites available. These come with a strong word of caution, Galarza said: have safety measures in place.

One measure is to create an e-mail account for dating online with a name that helps conceal identity, like a nickname.

Another measure is to always let someone you trust know where you may be meeting a date you’ve arranged online.

“During class, we show seniors how to do this safely,” she said.

Trouble with a local dating service was the reason the course was created, accordng to Eva Dunlap, administrative assistant at the La Jolla Community Center.

She explained that several members, mostly women, approached her about a dating seminar, but it never materialized. When a member went to an in-person dating service and nearly got scammed, community center staff decided it was time to look into the topic.

“This member called us for directions to the dating place because she didn’t want to use the freeway,” Dunlap said. “When I looked up the service, review after review reported it was a scam. One reviewer said she got scammed for $3,000. We couldn’t let our member go.”

So Dunlap and Community Center Director Nancy Walters searched for an expert who could tailor a dating class to seniors, and found Galarza. “We just fell in love with her personality,” Dunlap said. “We hope the class picks up and those ready to date come to our other events — Jazz Night or Opera Night — because they can be really romantic evenings.”

She noted that with almost 600 members, the opportunity for making friendships abounds, some seniors just need some tools and practice.

— DATING CLASS FOR SENIORS: How to date in this chapter of your life

• What: Learn the dating do's-and-don'ts, places to meet others, and tips for successful dating to bridge the gap between yesteryear's dating trends and how it has evolved. Bring a notebook, pen and questions for an open discussion guided by a relationship coach. Tea and cookies will be provided.

• When: 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014

• Where: La Jolla Community Center, 6811 La Jolla Blvd.

• Cost: $25 for community-center members, $30 for nonmembers

• Contact: (858) 459-0831

• Website: LJCommunityCenter.org

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