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Never too old for love

More people above age 60 getting married; most are men with younger, foreign brides

Published on Aug 25, 2014 10:29 PM
 
Never too old for love

The number of people aged 60 and above getting married has tripled over the past decade but it is mainly older men tying the knot late in life.

There were 369 bridegrooms in this age group last year, triple the 119 in 2003. They comprised 1.4 per cent of all grooms last year, almost triple the 0.5 per cent a decade ago.

Marriage solemnisers and counsellors said most of the men were marrying younger foreign women, and there has been an influx of foreigners seeking Singaporean husbands in the past decade.

With the rising number of divorces, more divorced men are also getting married again.

As for older women, 61 women aged 60 and above tied the knot last year. Although a relatively small number, it was still four times the 15 who got married in 2003.

The Marriages and Divorces 2013 report released by the Statistics Department late last month did not state the nationality of those who married older Singaporeans.

But solemnisers interviewed said most of the elderly grooms married women from countries such as China, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The 2013 statistics also showed that:

  • Six in 10 grooms were previously divorced and almost three in 10 were widowers;
  • Most of the men married younger women. Only about one in 10 took a wife in his age group;
  • Unlike the men, almost three in four women married men in the same age group;
  • Most of the older brides and grooms had secondary education or lower.

Experts interviewed said more elderly men were marrying because men seek companionship and sexual intimacy more than women, who may receive emotional support from friends.

Sociologist Paulin Straughan said that unlike older women, older men remained "in demand" as spouses.

"It's an age-old expectation that men are able to marry at whatever age they want, as long as they have money," she said.

"And men want a younger bride because they can have them. Younger women still want them, they look up to the men as providers," she added.

Care Corner Counselling Centre counsellor Jonathan Siew said some in society, such as the Chinese-educated, still frown on older women remarrying.

"Some people can be very critical and say things like the woman is so old and still hungry for a man," he said.

"Our society still finds older women remarrying abnormal. Many older women feel this way too and avoid getting into an intimate relationship."

Solemnisers said many of the senior grooms, who hold blue-collar jobs or are retired, marry women half their age.

The couples often meet through their social networks.

Some foreign women married to Singaporean men may also introduce their compatriots to their husbands' male friends.

Solemnisers and counsellors said many of those in late marriages keep their unions a hush-hush matter, afraid of being mocked by others or that their children might object.

Touch Community Services senior counsellor Chan Hon Shek said some children fear that the young foreign woman is out to cheat their father of his money - and their inheritance.

"We see children who bring their fathers for counselling, hoping we can dissuade the man from remarrying," he said. "But the man wants us to persuade his children to accept his new wife."

Grassroots leader Tay Hock Ann recalled solemnising the marriage of a 77-year-old man to a 49-year-old woman from China.

The widower kept the marriage a secret because he knew his children, whom he did not live with and was not close to, would object.

The couple had been introduced by friends. When the man suffered a stroke shortly after they met, the widow from China nursed him back to health. He eventually married her and they saw their union as fated, Mr Tay said.

But social workers said that many elderly grooms with young foreign brides run into multiple problems, from financial woes to difficulty in getting permanent residency status or long-term visit passes for the women.

Ms Ruth Tan, centre director of Marine Parade Family Service Centre, said some of the men are retired and their foreign wives are not allowed to work here.

More problems arise if such couples have children. Given their age or ailing health, the men may find it hard to secure a job or can only work part-time.

Still, those interviewed said they expect the number of late-life marriages to rise, given Singapore's ageing population and longer life expectancy.

Associate Professor Straughan said: "With people being more educated and more open-minded, more will be more accepting of seniors marrying for companionship."

theresat@sph.com.sg

 

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Background story

FIGHTING THE SOCIAL STIGMA

Age no issue for men

"Men are able to marry at whatever age they want, as long as they have money. And men want a younger bride because they can have them. Younger women still want them, they look up to the men as providers."

- Sociologist PAULIN STRAUGHAN, who said that unlike older women, older men remained "in demand" as spouses

Tougher for women

"Some people can be very critical and say things like the woman is so old and still hungry for a man. Our society still finds older women remarrying abnormal. Many older women feel this way too and avoid getting into an intimate relationship."

- Care Corner Counselling Centre counsellor JONATHAN SIEW, who said that some in society still frown on older women remarrying

Kids disapprove

"We see children who bring their fathers for counselling, hoping we can dissuade the man from remarrying. But the man wants us to persuade his children to accept his new wife."

- Touch Community Services senior counsellor CHAN HON SHEK, who said some children fear the young foreign bride is out to cheat their father of his money - and their inheritance


MARRIED ON HER 60TH BIRTHDAY

Financial consultant Kang Li Na met the man she would marry at a client's funeral more than a decade ago. She was then in her late 40s and divorced with a teenage daughter.

She started chatting with a man at the wake, and soon was trying to sell him an insurance policy. The childless widower was not interested in insurance, but sparks flew and the pair went on to become an item.

Ms Kang, now 62, said: "He's a very kind and nice man, and I was attracted to his smile."

But with the failure of her first marriage, she was not keen to remarry. She was content having a companion and live-in partner.

"To my younger friends and clients, I would say he was my boyfriend. To my older clients, I'd say he was my husband as I was afraid they would not accept our relationship."

A year younger than her, the retired businessman surprised her by popping the question more than 10 years after they had been together. It happened two years ago, when she was lamenting that her friends and clients might not show up for her 60th birthday party as it fell within the inauspicious Hungry Ghost festival.

"He said if we got married on my birthday, everyone would come," she said.

Touched, she accepted his proposal and they tied the knot on her birthday with a hotel reception for 80 guests, complete with a band.

"My friend's niece, who is 40 and single, said she still has a chance of getting married since Aunty Li Na got married at 60," she said.


WIDOWER FINDS A COMPANION

After his wife died, Raymond, 66, felt a nagging sense of emptiness when he went home.

"I felt out of place when I went home to an empty house with eight bedrooms. I felt the emptiness, even though I kept myself busy," he said. His wife died of a brain haemorrhage seven years ago.

He ran a tuition agency and kept fit by going to the gym, and playing tennis and hockey. Two nights a week, he sang with his band at a country club for fun.

Then he met a teacher from China in her 30s through work. Despite an age gap of almost 30 years, he said, they just clicked.

"We share a chemistry. We share the same passion for teaching," he said. "The age gap is not a problem. It's about compatibility and chemistry."

Three years ago, they married when he was 63 and she was 35. It is her first marriage.

His four children are aged between 26 and 39. Two of his children are married and he has two grandchildren.

"I married for companionship," he told The Sunday Times. "I wouldn't say my children were overjoyed, but they didn't object to my marriage. It's my life and I'm independent. I don't depend on them for a cent."

Thankfully, all has been well so far between his wife and his children.

"We get along well and I'm pretty happy. There is no friction," said Raymond, who declined to have his full name revealed in this report.

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