SUN CITY CENTER — When 66-year-old David Liehr moved to Sun City Center four years ago, he thought he'd have no problem finding someone to share his interests in theater and travel.
His 40s and 50s were spent raising three daughters alone after a divorce, so there was little time for dating then.
He hoped his golden years would offer companionship.
But despite entering a thriving retirement community of more than 20,000 residents, Liehr had trouble meeting other singles.
In August, the bachelor decided to get more aggressive. He launched a free online dating forum for Sun City Center through Yahoo! Groups.
So far, it has more than 60 members. He hasn't heard of any romantic connections yet, though some of the women — who outnumber the men 4 to 1 — have become friends.
"For an area that has so many people ... there aren't a lot of things that are conducive if you're looking for a date," he said.
Liehr plays golf, but men tend to hit the links with other men and the women play with other women, he said. He has tried the singles dances, where most of the people show up already coupled, he says, and the bars and restaurants in nearby towns. He went on a few dates but felt no spark.
"I would love to start traveling, but I would like to do that with a special person," he said.
He's hoping more people join the online group to expand the dating pool for everyone. He admits there have been some glitches, including his generation's familiarity with the Internet.
"There are several people where I spent an hour on the phone telling them how to post a picture," he said. On three occasions, he went to their homes to help them.
'I still want to go, go, go,' a 72-year-old says
Millie McClary says her generation isn't the only problem.
She considers herself computer savvy; she volunteers at the computer lab once a week. And yet she has found the online group forum hard to navigate.
"I think it's the limitations of the Yahoo! Groups," said McClary, 72, who has used Match.com and other online dating sites.
But McClary agrees with Liehr on the need for more dating outlets in the community.
Most of the social clubs in town are hobby groups and not a good way to meet a potential date, she said.
The town needs a nightclub, said McClary, a five-year resident of Sun City Center who divorced in the early 1990s.
"They roll in the sidewalks at 8 o'clock," she said. "The best jumping place right now is the Renaissance private club, and I would have to have an invitation from a resident who lives in that area."
When she lived on the east coast of Florida in the 1990s, she formed a nonsmoking singles group by putting an ad in the local paper. It quickly bloomed from three dozen people to 300. They met once a week at a hotel cocktail lounge.
She thinks Sun City Center could use the same thing but lacks facilities where a similar group could meet. She wants to find someone as active as she is and who shares her love of cooking and bike riding.
"At this point, I'm active and healthy, and I don't want someone who has extreme health problems," she said. "I still want to go, go, go."
Widower and boomer look for opportunities
Bob Dowd, 84, says he's not so fond of dance clubs anymore. Besides, anything that starts at 8 p.m. is getting late for him.
He agrees that the area needs a singles club.
He recently registered with Liehr's online forum, but he's skeptical that women his age will use the Internet much. Still, he wants to find someone to take to the Elks club, maybe do a little dancing and take on cruises.
His wife of 58 years died more than a year ago. Since then, he has ventured back into the dating scene but has been flustered by the misunderstandings and drama that come with it.
"To run into that after all these years at this age, who needs it?" he said.
Emelina de Guzman finds the forum too limiting. At 58, she's one of the younger people on the site and thinks more residents would join if there were group events planned.
"I think we can set up a place to go and meet," she said. The group can break down by age or interests and plan trips to museums or plays, said de Guzman, the director of the learning center at Southwest Florida College.
"I'm busy with my job, but on weekends I love to dance," she said.
As baby boomers move into the community, she thinks it's essential to offer a variety of options.
"I was the youngest before, but now the baby boomers started to move in and now we are in different age levels. My interests are not the same as someone who is 75 years old," she said. "Even though we formed this singles group, we have to categorize different interests so everyone will be satisfied."
Saundra Amrhein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 661-2441.