“It seems like younger people don’t have time to go out as much. I think they don’t really need a singles club,” said Stan Novakowski of Groton. “I belonged to the club between 1985 and 1990, and some of these same people were there, but they were in their 30s and 40s then.”

When the Southeastern Connecticut Singles Association was formed 31 years ago, founding members probably had no concept of what the club would become.


Created to give professional people in the area a chance to meet other singles, the burgeoning club boasted a membership of more than 300. Today, there are only 175 members. Group leaders say the ages of members continue to increase, but the membership rate is dropping fast.


“It seems like younger people don’t have time to go out as much. I think they don’t really need a singles club,” said Stan Novakowski of Groton. “I belonged to the club between 1985 and 1990, and some of these same people were there, but they were in their 30s and 40s then.”


Novakowski serves as the club’s dance chairman. At a Valentine’s Day dance a few weeks ago, the crowd of 115 was an above-average turnout, he said.


“A lot of us are really thinking that if younger people don’t join, as the club dies out, there won’t be anyone to replace us,” Novakowski said. “Right now, it’s really a 50-and-over club.”


Virginia Bender, a member of the dance committee, blames the Internet for the decline in membership, saying young singles today surf the Web to meet other singles.


According to Alexa Internet, a company that ranks the most visited Web sites in the world, dating site Match.com is the 215th most visited site on the Internet.


“I feel as our members are older and less active, we are not as likely to seek out new members,” Bender said. “That said, our members are aging, and we are actively seeking new members at our Friday night Happy Hour at the Norwich Holiday Inn.”


Krista Estabrooks of Brooklyn, 38, a single mother, said a singles club doesn’t interest her as a way to meet other singles.


She said she’s not sure why clubs such as the Southeastern Connecticut Singles Association aren’t “all the rage” anymore. But she suspects many people are simply meeting their mates in other locations. Another reason, she said, may be marriage isn’t as much of a priority today as it once was.


“Values have changed completely, and even fallen by the wayside. People are more apt to just move in with someone and not worry about marriage whereas that may have been very important to the older generation,” she said.


Estabrooks said she can see where the clubs provide an in-person alternative to the dangers that may lurk behind online dating, however.


“I’ve heard so many horror stories that it just seems like a face-to-face meeting would be much safer,” she said.


Though the club has held membership drives as recently as December, member Mel Varnhagen of Gales Ferry said the events aren’t always productive. Inevitably, any spike in new members is followed by a lull.


“We’ve had a lot of people join and then show up to see it’s all older people and choose not to be part of it anymore,” he said. “I think we’ve been having that same up-and-down cycle for years.”


Varnhagen said the majority of members don’t join the club hoping to meet a significant other. They simply are seeking a social group. As a member for nearly 20 years, he said he still enjoys the camaraderie among the friends he’s met in the club.


“They have all kind of activities — dine-outs, card games, Scrabble games. But on Friday nights, we go out and have a beer at a local pub,” he said. “If you meet somebody there who likes you, too, that’s fine. But there’s no pressure, it’s just fun.”


Contact Amy Lawson at alawson@norwichbulletin.com.