More than 180 senior citizens gathered at the Glen Cove Senior Center on March 21 for a cinematic look into an often-overlooked topic: the romantic lives of people in their age group.
“The Age of Love,” a documentary, followed a group of seniors in upstate Rochester several years ago as they prepared for, took part in and reflected on a speed-dating event for people 70 and older. The film focused on what it means to fall in love later in life, and how important relationships are as we age.
Director Steven Loring, of Brooklyn, said he was inspired to make the 79-minute documentary by two people in his life — his mother and uncle. After his father died, his mother told him she had no idea what her future held. “All my life, I’ve been part of a team,” Loring recalled her saying, “and as of today I’m just another old lady in the world, alone.”
Shortly after that, Loring’s 78-year-old uncle moved into a senior residential community, after living on his own for much of his life. There he met an 80-year-old woman with whom he developed a romantic relationship, which Loring said helped him realize that it’s never too late to find love.
Inspired, Loring, now 57, set out to make a film that could help debunk the stereotype that romantic love should be put aside later in life. He discovered the event in Rochester, and, working from a list of the people who had signed up, he contacted 30 of them, and all agreed to be interviewed and filmed.
After last Thursday’s screening of “The Age of Love,” Loring answered questions from the audience. Every participant in the speed-dating event got at least one date, he said, and many of the participants’ children hadn’t considered that their parents might be seeking love.
Several audience members said that people don’t stop needing love in old age. Some said that they still felt youthful inside. “Young is not an age,” said Lucy Van Horn. “It’s a state of mind.”
Connie Miceli said she felt a strong connection to the people in the film, and believed her fellow audience members did, too. “Love is an ageless thing,” she said. “We all know that.”
Loring concluded the Q&A session by encouraging the attendees to live as youthfully as they feel, and they responded with spirited applause.
As she was making her way out of the senior center, Nancy Stepkowski, 83, said she was moved by the film. “It ran a range of emotions,” she said. “It was just so human, and at [my] age, it’s everything I feel.”
Loring said he believed the film elicited emotional responses in part because he filmed the participants reading the results of their five-minute interactions — who was interested in dating them and who was not. “That to me was really the heart of the whole emotional experience,” he said, because some of the seniors were overjoyed with their results, while others were disappointed.
Ultimately, Loring said, he wanted to send a message to anyone who sees the film that love isn’t reserved for the young. “Love is a universal,” he said, “and I think if we’re ever going to fight the stereotypes of aging, one way we can do it is by looking at people’s hearts.”
“The Age of Love,” which was released in 2015, has been screened hundreds of times aroound the world. Taking the film to other countries, Loring said, helped him understand that the need for love in one’s later years is shared by many of the world’s cultures, something that he said has been a pleasant surprise. “It seems amazing to me to have tapped into something so unexpected,” he added.
Carol Waldman, the senior center’s executive director, said she knew she had to bring the film to the center after viewing it at the Nassau County Office of the Aging. “It was a chance for us, with great excitement, to explore what it means to be when you get older,” Waldman said, “especially when it comes to love.”
“If people stay open, if their hearts can stay open,” she added, “it’s possible to find love and friendship in their later years.”
Waldman was thrilled, she said, by the number of people who attended — and newly confident that the center’s own upcoming speed-dating event will be a success. Residents 60 and older are invited to take part on April 12, at the View Grill, at 5:30 p.m. Anyone who is interested can pre-register by calling the senior center.