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‘People Age, Love Doesn’t’: This Man Helps Single Senior Citizens Find Their Soulmates

Pune-based Happy Seniors started by Madhav Damle helps senior citizens find love and companionship. Madhav’s pragmatic approach, ensuring financial stability and addressing legal concerns, has resulted in 75 seniors finding happiness in live-in relationships.

‘People Age, Love Doesn’t’: This Man Helps Single Senior Citizens Find Their Soulmates

What does it take to find your soulmate after you reach the age of 50? Apparently, at Madhav Damle’s Happy Seniors, a one-time membership fee of Rs 7,000. A small price to pay for love.

The happiness of the 150-odd people who have found companionship through the matchmaking agency is proof of its success rate. Whenever the topic of love in one’s silver years is addressed, one can’t help but think back to the year 2015. If you recall, there was a story of a couple in their sixties finding love. It broke the internet.

Channels and digital publications cited the story as proof of the shift in the way relationships were perceived in India and the acceptance of more modern ideologies. But, while we may like to think that live-in relationships have gotten their blessing from society, it is still taboo in many places and an unspoken sacrilege in rural India.

So, when Anil Yardi and Asawari Kulkarni’s “dating in old age” story emerged, the world saw it as a conversation starter to how senior citizens are beginning to shed their inhibitions when it comes to live-in relationships in India.

As the couple completes nine years of togetherness, they look back on the epic journey.

Kulkarni who retired in 2012 had been alone since her husband’s demise in 1997. Work occupied her mind but it was only when it came to a pause that she missed the beauty of companionship. And it was at one of the Happy Seniors meetups that she met Yardi, and the duo instantly hit it off. They took the plunge and decided to ‘live-in’ — “goals” as any Gen Z would say.

While telling the tale, Madhav Damle, a service engineer from Pune who played Cupid in this story, wells with pride.

Happy Seniors is a Pune based matchmaking agency for senior citizens headed by Madhav Damle
Happy Seniors is a Pune-based matchmaking agency for senior citizens, headed by Madhav Damle, Picture source: Madhav

Exploring the holy grail of love in old-age

Madhav’s evenings are jam-packed (I can testify as I have been on the receiving end of rescheduled calls!) His line-up of social obligations is the reason — a passion he traces back to his corporate years when he was closely associated with the Lions Club, an organisation dedicated to serving local communities and impacting society at large.

“Most of the events I was a part of were at old age homes. It was sad to watch the loneliness that senior citizens face,” he says. It was these incidents that tugged at his heartstrings.

“I wanted to do something for them,” says Madhav, adding that that’s when his century-old ancestral home in Mahabaleshwar’s Wai village seemed to beckon.

The sprawling wada was lying vacant before Madhav built a temple and an adjoining old age home on its premises. In the next couple of years, the space became a welcome abode for senior citizens whose partners had passed away. Everything was going well until an incident prompted Madhav to alter his approach to the idea of helping the elderly.

Madhav Damle is a service engineer who started Happy Seniors to help the elderly find their soulmates
Madhav Damle is a service engineer who started Happy Seniors to help the elderly find their soulmates, Picture source: Madhav

“In 2010, the same year I started the old age home, one of the uncles got into a verbal spat with his child. He took an extreme step, overdosed on his medications and became seriously ill. The staff called me from the nearest hospital where they had him admitted and I phoned his children asking them to come too, but they refused,” Madhav notes.

While early intervention helped the elderly man recover, Madhav pondered over the reality of the situation. “If his kids’ attitude was this when their father was in his sixties, would time make it worse?”

Everyone needs someone

“I began talking to him about the idea of companionship,” Madhav says, recalling how the gentleman’s first reaction was dismissive. “But eventually he saw sense in it. In time, we found a partner who we thought was compatible. The duo met, and in a year’s time, they got married.” 

Likewise, Madhav helped another elderly gentleman at the old age home also find a suitable partner. But the third time did not prove as lucky.

Since the man’s children were against the marriage, he backed out at the last minute leaving the woman stranded. Financial stability coupled with having a home of her own meant the shocking separation did not impact her much. “But if it was a housewife, she’d be left on the lurch in this situation,” she told Madhav, who realised he needed to adopt a more pragmatic approach to counter life’s curveballs.

Asawari Kulkarni and Anil Yardi met through Happy Seniors and have been together for nine years now
Asawari Kulkarni and Anil Yardi met through Happy Seniors and have been together for nine years now, Picture source: Madhav

Re-marriage isn’t a solution, but companionship is, Madhav thought. A live-in relationship might prove a solution. This was backed by the Supreme Court judgement that held that living together as partners without getting married is not illegal or a criminal offence. Thus, Happy Seniors was born in Pune in 2012 on the precipice of helping people find love in their old age.

A modern spin on companionship

Madhav Damle’s model of live-in relationships does not have any loopholes; he has seen to it.

“The main reason why these kinds of relationships are frowned upon among youngsters is because of the possibility of children. Whose responsibility will the children be if there is no marriage in place? But in the case of the senior citizens, there isn’t [much] scope for this problem to arise. Their children are settled in life,” he says.

He adds that all of the senior citizens he has assisted in finding the right partner are financially stable. In addition to this, property disputes do not arise as there is no legal binding between the couple.

And so, Happy Seniors began its journey with a handful of seniors looking for love. The group met every month and during the first ‘picnic’, the first match was made. A couple, the woman in her fifties and the man in his sixties, fell in love and decided to “date”. A year later they got married.

The members of Happy Seniors meet every two months and Madhav Damle, the founder, says there are almost 20 new members at each meeting
The members of Happy Seniors meet every two months and Madhav says there are almost 20 new members at each meeting, Picture source: Madhav

As local newspapers rushed to tell the tale, Madhav said it was good publicity for Happy Seniors. The number of members increased and so did the success stories.

Madhav, the proud matchmaker that he is, says he has “75 people in live-in relationships” at Happy Seniors. Every month, almost 20 new members join, hopeful of finding their soulmate.

Finding love can be a minefield, he agrees. And the tailored list of questions he asks every new joinee helps ease the process. “Do your children know you are open to a live-in? Are they okay with it? Are you financially stable? Do you have a flat of your own?” are some of the questions.

Elaborating, Madhav says it helps them get an idea of where the senior citizen stands when it comes to a live-in relationship.

“We see to it that every male member we are onboarding has an average income of Rs 35,000 a month. Also, both parties must open individual bank accounts when they get into the live-in and deposit a fixed amount of money in it. The first holder will be the person who deposits the money, the second holder will be their partner. If we see any hanky-panky happening from either side, the other person gets all the money as compensation,” he explains.

Currently, Happy Seniors sees elderly from Pune, Nagpur and Mumbai regions.

Even as Madhav scripts love stories by the day, it is a beautiful realisation that love indeed has no boundaries. People age; love does not.

In the hustle and bustle of metro cities, the urgency for elderly care has never been more important. A significant portion of senior citizens in India find themselves dependent, and alone, requiring essential assistance and support in their day-to-day lives.

A little more love, a little less loneliness. When you #VolunteerForSeniors, you help them get care, respect and dignity.

Edited by Pranita Bhat

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