Dave Schulz and Caron Grich are the founders of a Brunswick-based group called Connected, designed for people over the age of 55 who are single, widowed or divorced to make new friends and get out at night without having to go to a restaurant or bar. Hannah LaClaire/The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — Whenever Caron Grich and Dave Schulz see people exchanging phone numbers, sitting together for the speaker’s presentation or lingering late to keep talking, they know the group they started is making a difference. 

“Connected” is a social group – not a dating group – for people 55 and over who are single, divorced or widowed. The group meets the first Monday of every month and offers a chance for people in their golden years to get out of the house, make friends and socialize with others around the same age and in similar situations. 

“There’s not a thing for that age group,” said Grich, who formed the group with Schulz, a friend of hers, to meet a need she saw in the community. “There are clubs and things in the daytime (but) we don’t want to go to bars and restaurants” to meet people at night, she said. 

“It’s a way to have people in the community get out of that isolation,” Schulz said. 

Every month there is a new speaker — they never know who ahead of time, but it’s usually an industry professional — for both entertainment and as a conversation starter. Maine State Music Theatre’s Curt Dale Clark, The Chocolate Church’s William Lederer and Mid Coast Hospital’s Lois Skillings have all spoken, with plans for a nutritionist and a choral conductor in the coming months. 

Grich got the idea from a social group she was part of several years ago in Connecticut, where people split into groups for those 25 to 35 and another for those 35 and older. It was structured similarly, with a speaker to break the ice, she said, and was always a “booming success.” 

Now, the local group for those 55 and older is gaining traction, a fact for which she said she feels “blessed.” People from Damariscotta and Windham are making the drive to Brunswick every month for a low-pressure, fun, community-oriented event. 

“I think it’s a tremendous asset to the community,” Grich said. 

Stacy Frizzle, executive director of People Plus, an organization providing wellness, fitness, recreation, education and outreach opportunities for older adults, agreed. 

Maine is the oldest state in the country with a median age of 44.3 (the national average is 38), and more than 23% of the population over the age of 62, according to the 2017 American Community Survey. In Brunswick, the percentage of people over 62 is even higher, at 24.9% of the population.

There are thousands of people who may have lost a spouse, gone through a divorce, or simply never married. “It’s a huge number,” Frizzle said.

“If people are comfortable going out at night, it’s a huge benefit to the senior community,” she said.  “Isolation is the No. 1 cause of depression for the senior population.” 

Accountability, feeling like people are expecting you to be somewhere, is incredibly important, she said. Having somewhere to go and sharing a meal  can boost positivity and also improve personal hygiene and contribute to a healthier life, she added.  

“Clubs like this are fantastic, especially if there’s no pressure and it’s not a dating place, just a place to go out and make friends,” Frizzle said. 

Connected meets on the first Monday of every month 7-9 p.m. in the St. Charles Borromeo Church hall at 132 McKeen St. The group is not religious or affiliated with the church. It is free to attend. The next meeting is Dec. 2. For more information, call (207) 725-1266 or (207) 725-8386 and leave a message. 

Comments are not available on this story.