Never too late to look for love

Updated: 2011-04-18 08:06

By Liu Yujie (China Daily)

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Dating clubs to help elderly find new friends or life partners

Silver-haired singletons across the capital are to be given a helping hand in seeking twilight romances.

Dating clubs for elderly residents will be set up citywide as part of efforts to ease the emotional and financial burden on families, according to the civil affairs bureau.

"With the increasing numbers of single elderly people in Beijing, their psychological health has become an important social issue," said bureau spokeswoman Li Jing. "This aims to create more opportunities for them to make friends and find partners."

Communities that want to organize lonely hearts clubs for the elderly must have a venue of at least 30 square meters and the necessary equipment, such as computers and phones. Li said up to 10 clubs will be licensed by the end of this year.

The Gerontological Society of China has been organizing annual matchmaking activities for older Beijingers since 2008. Deputy director Zhao Baohua told METRO its events have seen a sharp increase in clients in their 50s and 60s, as well as many in their 70s and 80s, while middle-aged people are showing more understanding toward single parents looking for new life companions.

"I'm not only looking into the marriage of my son ... but also of my 72-year-old father, as my mother passed away two years ago and his physical and mental health has been deteriorating ever since," said Liu Juan, 48, who was at a dating event in Yuyuantan Park on Sunday. "Both of them need a little assistance."

Liu said she believes the project will enrich the lives of elderly people, as well as relieve the burden on children. She added: "It greatly helps in boosting old people's self-confidence and independence."

Zeng, a 67-year-old who lives alone in the Hepingli area and did not want his full name used, said he is looking forward to the dating clubs because it will help him expand his circle of friends. "The only time I talk with other people is when I walk my dog," he said. "I don't know how to log on to the Internet to socialize."

Researcher Yin Bo at Renmin University of China's population research institute predicts the new clubs will have positive impact on many families. "Elderly singletons need love and attention. They lose social relations when they retire and suffer serious emotional problems when they lose significant others," he said. "It's important for them to step outside and have friends and companions."

"Silver marriages" can be complicated if children interfere. However, statistics show the attitudes of most children and grandchildren are evolving.

A 2008 survey in Beijing by the population research institute found 54 percent of 4,526 respondents aged over 60 were in favor of "silver marriages", along with 67.3 percent of 1,828 respondents aged 15 to 59.

Figures from the civil affairs bureau also show that, by the end of 2009, Beijing had 2.26 million people aged 60 and over, about 18.2 percent of the population. Roughly 23 percent had lost spouses, while 1 percent were either divorced or had never married.


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