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Karen Mason and Paul van Donkelaar.

Who: Karen Mason, 50, executive director at Kelowna Women’s Shelter. Paul van Donkelaar, 55, university professor and neuroscientist.

Relationship status: Unmarried since 2015.

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Location: Kelowna, B.C.

You’re never too old to swipe right

Karen: We met on Tinder, which the younger people we know find endlessly amusing. Both of us had come out of long-term marriages. I had been meeting people online without much luck. The night before I was matched with Paul, I told a friend that I was never going to meet one person who was everything I was looking for. I was okay with that – I’d have one guy to go to the theatre with, one to have dinner with... and then Paul and I started talking.

Paul: It was pretty clear right away that we had a connection. We had a similar sense of humour. She said, you’re the first person I met on here who doesn’t drive an ATV and wear his baseball cap backward.

Karen: Our first date was dinner, and we were having this great conversation so we went for a walk along the waterfront. There was a guy who walked past us. He looked a little rough around the edges and he said, “You two make a great-looking couple.”

Professional partnership

Paul: We never expected to end up working together. I am a neuroscientist and I’d been studying contact sport athletes. And then Karen came across an editorial in the L.A. Times that looked at how women who were victims of intimate partner violence would be dealing with a similar prominence of traumatic brain injuries.

Karen: We’d have these discussions and I’d say. “Enough with the football players!” And then we looked into it and there had been almost no research done. We knew we were onto something.

Paul: We got an initial donation from an individual who wanted to support the work, and we’ve spent the last year collecting the data. We even did a Ted Talk last year.

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Karen: We joke that anyone who is supporting our work is getting a lot of bang for their buck because we spend way too much time talking about this. It’s not a problem for us. I think maybe our friends want us to stop talking shop sometimes.

Unmarried ever after

Karen: Pretty early on, we were talking about whether we should live together. We did it pretty quickly because, you know, we’re old; we don’t want to waste time. Neither of us was interested in getting married again.

Paul: I think I said something like, “I don’t want to get married to you every day for the rest of my life.”

Karen: My 50th birthday was coming up, so we threw a party that was kind of a non-wedding celebration. It was low key, a lot of fun. We had a gelato bar! The only thing we wish is that we could have tracked that guy who told us we made a great couple. We would have loved to invite him.

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