More finding love and marriage in golden years

Ms Agatha Koh and Mr Teng Nee Peng tied the knot after less than six months of dating, in 2015, at the age of 61.
Ms Agatha Koh and Mr Teng Nee Peng tied the knot after less than six months of dating, in 2015, at the age of 61. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

When his wife died suddenly of a lung infection eight years ago, Mr Yap was left bereft.

The taxi driver, who did not want to give his full name, had a married son in his 30s but did not live with him. "I was lonely. There was no one to talk to, no one to look after me."

A few years after his wife's death, a friend suggested he look for a new partner and introduced him to a divorcee from China.

He took his time getting to know the childcare centre worker, now 52. After all, there were many stories of retirees being cheated of all their savings by foreign women, he said.

The pair tied the knot in 2013 after dating for two years.

Like Mr Yap, now 65, more men and women in their golden years are finding love and marriage, a number that has risen steadily in the past decade.

Last year, 470 men aged 60 and older got married - almost double the 236 a decade ago. They comprised 1.7 per cent of all grooms last year, up from 1 per cent in 2006.

At least eight in 10 brides and grooms aged 60 and older who wed last year were widowed or divorced, according to the Marriages and Divorces Statistics 2016, released by the Department of Statistics last month.


The number of late-in-life unions has risen as seniors become more open to romance, counsellors say.

Mr Leng Chin Fai, executive director of Fei Yue Community Services, said: "Twenty years ago, many seniors would not remarry as they were afraid others would laugh at them.

"But now, society is more open and seniors are also more independent, modern and active."

Singaporeans are also living longer, and more seniors do not want to spend the remaining 20 or 30 years of their lives alone, counsellors note.

Still, significantly fewer women over 60 than men marry.

Some 95 women aged 60 and older wed last year. Still, this is more than double the 38 in 2006.

These older women made up 0.3 per cent of all brides last year, up from 0.2 per cent in 2006.

It is still less acceptable for older women to remarry, so many older widows or divorcees hesitate to enter into a new relationship or think of marriage, said Mr Jonathan Siew of Care Corner Counselling Centre.

Besides, women tend to have a larger social network and may not feel the need for companionship that many older men crave.

Counsellors point out that men also tend to seek younger wives.

Only 16 per cent of grooms aged 60 and older last year married a woman in their age group. About half of these grooms wed a woman in their 30s or 40s.

This contrasts with 77 per cent of women aged 60 and older who married someone in their age group last year. The remainder tended to marry men in their 50s.

There are many younger foreign women willing to marry older Singaporeans, those interviewed said.

While the data does not give a breakdown by nationality, those interviewed say many of the older men in blue-collar work they see take wives from countries like China, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Sociologist Paulin Straughan said the trend of seniors remarrying is likely to rise. More couples - even older ones - are divorcing and are open to finding a new spouse as social norms evolve.

However, counsellors note that while the seniors themselves are keen to give romance another shot, their children may not warm to that reality. This is especially so if the new wife is much younger, said Mr Leng. Children may suspect her to have pecuniary motives.

So, rather than upset their children, some older couples refrain from marrying but are content just to date, counsellors note.

For Mr Yap, his son was understanding and supportive of his second marriage. "I feel more cheerful and relaxed now as I have a companion," he said in Mandarin. "My wife is a good woman with a kind heart, and she really takes care of me."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2017, with the headline 'More finding love and marriage in golden years'. Print Edition | Subscribe