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The high price of elderly romance | Updated: 2016-11-15 10:04

Around noon on a sunny autumn day, 70-year-old Huang Guizhen and two of her friends, each holding a cup of coffee and a piece of pineapple bread, went to sit down at a clean and well-lit table in IKEA Shanghai's Xuhui canteen.

Upon seeing this, Liu Shuwen, a grey-haired old man who was sitting nearby, stood up with his coffee, hobbled over to Huang’s table and joined in the conversation.

Every Tuesday and Thursday for the past eight to nine years, senior citizens from different residential communities in Shanghai have flooded to this canteen owned by the Swedish furniture giant.

They meet friends and prowl for potential partners, while some just look around this large senior matchmaking group.

With an IKEA membership, which can be easily obtained with a Chinese identification card, free coffee is available.

Moreover, its spacious room, reliable air-conditioning and easy accessibility via public transport make the canteen an ideal meeting place.

The money conundrum

Males with good luck and deep pockets tend to have more opportunities to flirt with the opposite sex. This has always been the case with romance.

In comparison with other love hunters, Liu seems to be a bit unlucky. He is a little bit chubby, already bald, and most of his hair is grey.

"I want to find a well-behaved, educated and decent woman to help with my family," the quiet man said, describing what he wanted in a potential partner. "I’m healthy and have a monthly pension of over 4,000 yuan (US$583), but I never get lucky because they are never really satisfied and want big houses and fancy cars."

As is the case with single young people, money and housing are the two biggest concerns for seniors looking for a potential partner.

"My boyfriend has a monthly pension of 4,000 yuan and I have 3,057," said Huang, a frequenter of the twice-weekly gatherings. "But he must never pin his hopes on having my house."

She and her boyfriend decided to leave the houses to their own children.

"Without money and a house, no woman wants to date with you," said a grey-haired man as he checked the stock market on his smart phone.

A good partner is hard to find

Shanghai’s population is gradually aging. The number of people aged 60 or above reached 4.36 million by the end of last year, or 30.2 percent of permanent residents, according to the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.

About 80 percent of the senior population has only one child, which means that the number of aged people living alone will increase correspondingly with the aging population.

However, true love is never easy to find.

Some have dated several of times but get gradually pushed away.

"Longstanding living habits, different values and family interests often stand in the way of elderly romance," explained a Lu Zhixing, 71.

To avoid potential problems, he chooses to live with his partner but isn’t considering getting married.

A survey conducted by Renmin University of China that was released in March showed that half of the elderly aged above 60 in China lives alone, and a quarter of whom said they feel lonely.

"We are not young anymore," she said. "Marriage is not an issue for us as long as we’re happy together." They fell in love with each other at first sight and have been together for five or six years.

Housing, children and pensions are something that senior love hunters need to consider. While some of them moaned that they would never find someone they really love, senior citizens still flooded to IKEA’s popular rendezvous to relieve their loneliness.

(The names mentioned in the article are all alias.)

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