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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Finding love at their own speed

Jan 29, 2024 10:56AM ● By Heidi Pool

What are the odds of finding later-in-life love at a speed-dating event? If you were a betting person, would you say 25%? How about 60? For Joyce Deem and Jim Barnhill, the probability was a full 100 percent, but neither of them knew it at the time.

In August 2019, Joyce and Jim took part in a speed dating event for individuals 70 years old and better, co-hosted by the BEACON and Hilltop’s Senior Living Communities. 

After spending five minutes with each person of the opposite gender, participants checked “yes” next to someone’s name on their printed list if they were interested in seeing them again, and “no” if they weren’t, and those who both answered affirmatively were considered a “match.”

Joyce said twice as many women as men participated in the event; she was one of four matches for Jim, while he was her only match. In the ensuing months, the pair began seeing each other exclusively, and before long decided to tie the knot. 

They’ll celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary in May, and look forward to spending many more blissful years together. I visited with Joyce and Jim to learn more about how speed dating led to their successful later-in-life romance.


Now 75, Joyce had been divorced for 13 years when she signed up for the speed dating event. 

“I’ve always felt that people—myself included—do better with a [life] partner,” she said. “I was open to the idea of marrying again, but hadn’t met anyone [suitable].” 

Although Joyce had tried online dating, she found it unpleasant and unsuccessful. 

“A woman I know had met her husband through speed dating, so that encouraged me to give it a try,” she said. 

In what could easily be described as a serendipitous moment, Joyce and Jim initially met before the “dating” actually began. 

“There was a buffet table with appetizers, and a small group of people were chatting nearby,” Joyce recalled. “I joined in, and before long everyone but Jim stepped away, leaving us alone. We were having a delightful conversation, and then it was time to start.” 

When it was Joyce and Jim’s turn for their “date,” her first impression of him was that he was a “friendly guy.” 

“He told me he’d been laying a new floor that day at his house, and that his son had come from Montrose to help,” Joyce said. 

Being family oriented, she was impressed that Jim is close enough to his kids that one of them would be willing to assist him with a project like that.

It was a no-brainer for Joyce to check the “yes” box next to Jim’s name on her sheet. And the following day, when a BEACON/Hilltop staff member called to ask if they could provide Jim with her contact information, she readily agreed.

Jim’s first wife passed away in 2018 after a lengthy battle with dementia and diabetes. 

“I was her caregiver the last few years before she died,” he said. “It was tough on both of us.” 

Now 86, Jim has every intention of living to 100, and was looking for someone to spend the rest of his life with when he signed up for the speed dating event. But with such a short time to become acquainted, Jim worried he wouldn’t meet someone special.

“I’m not very outgoing, so I wasn’t too hopeful,” he said.

But Jim felt so comfortable with Joyce he didn’t hesitate checking the “yes” box next to her name.

Like Joyce, the next day Jim received a call from someone who provided him with contact information for his four matches. 

“I went out with one person before Joyce,” he said. “She was nice, but had an [obvious] agenda I wasn’t ready for.” 

After Jim and Joyce’s first “real” date, Jim happily set his contact list aside.



Throughout the fall of 2019, Joyce and Jim’s relationship blossomed, and by January 2020 they knew marriage was in their future. 

“We planned a big wedding for July, but had to put that aside due to COVID,” Joyce said. 

She believes being together 24/7 during the pandemic actually strengthened their bond. 

“We asked each other, ‘why wait?’ and had a small ceremony here at the house in May,” said Joyce.

Prior to their marriage, the couple successfully worked through two major issues: their 11-year age difference, and whether or not to merge their finances. 

Although Joyce said Jim is “very youthful, and blessed with good health,” Jim spoke from experience when he said, “I definitely don’t want Joyce becoming my full-time caregiver someday.” 

“We both understand and agree we could end up being apart from one another at some point in time, or that we might need to hire caregivers,” added Joyce. 

And they believe keeping their finances separate—and being transparent with their children and grandchildren—was an important factor in effectively integrating their respective families. 

“Our families are just as important in our relationship as we are,” said Jim. “We’d never want there to be any [bickering], so we’ve spelled out everything in writing.”

After their wedding, Joyce moved from her house in the Redlands to Jim’s home in a rural area of town. 

A city girl at heart, Joyce has learned to appreciate country life, with one notable exception: “I insist on locking all the doors at night, even though Jim’s lived here for years without ever doing so.”

Both believe in the importance of an active lifestyle, and cherish regular walks together, often intertwining their fingers as they stroll. 

“Sometimes people stop us and say, ‘It’s so nice to see people your age still holding hands,’” Joyce said, which tickles both of them. 

“As an older newlywed, it’s refreshing to revive those romantic feelings [and customs],” added Jim. 

And for Joyce, “Feeling loved by someone again after being alone for so long is really special.”

Both of them are truly overjoyed by how well their families have blended. 

“My grandkids have all accepted Jim as their new grandpa,” Joyce shared. 

And introducing Joyce to his sizable family was a delightful new life experience for Jim. 

“It’s been wonderful for both of us to bring so much new love into our lives,” he said. “We feel very grateful for this gift we’ve been given.” 

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