SHANGHAI — Six months after meeting in a Shanghai teahouse, Yu Gendi, a 60-year-old divorced mother of six, and Zhao Duisheng, a 63-year-old widower with four children, decided to take the plunge. They were married.
Confronted with millions of elderly living alone, the Chinese government is now encouraging such remarriages to salve lonely hearts and ease the growing cost of care for older Chinese. But in trying to override Confucian tradition that proscribes remarriage, officials are meeting moral and economic resistance among families and only limited success among elderly Chinese.
Zhao's children, for example, who no longer live in Shanghai, were delighted with their father's new companion. But Mrs. Yu's children were appalled and opposed the marriage because they would lose their claim to her house, the couple says.
Given the scarcity of urban housing, which is assigned by a person's workplace, children are often eager to exert their right to take over their parents' assigned home after them. But after remarriage, first rights to the house go to the spouse.
``His children all supported him, but my children didn't. They were confined to old ideas,'' Yu recalls. ``He moved into my house, so there was a lot of arguing over the housing.''
According to Legal Daily, more than one-third of China's elderly are without spouses, but just over 5 percent remarry in cities and less than 1 percent in the countryside.
``The success rate of remarriages among old people is not high because they are usually motivated by money concerns and lack of mutual attachment,'' says Hong Guodong, director of the China Research Center on Aging in Beijing.
To foster marriages that will last, Shanghai is now running matchmaking services like the one at the Nanshi District Community Center, where 385 couples have been married in collective wedding ceremonies since 1985.
Yu and Zhao's whirlwind courtship of ballroom dancing, movies, and long talks over tea overcame their initial doubts about age and convinced them that remarriage was for them.
``We got to know each other, and I found she was very considerate of me,'' Zhao says.