Chinese parents always encourage their adult children to marry and raise a family on their own, but when widowed parents want to remarry to have a company in their lonely and neglected lives, the same adult children always try to discourage them for fear of being denied of property rights. Such disputes between senior and junior family members over property inheritance have driven a number of new elderly couples to marry secretly without their children’s knowledge or blessings.
According to statistics from a matchmaking agency in Jiangxi Province, over 80 percent of single senior citizens who were once married hope to get married again. Sadly, more than 60 percent of them fail to receive any moral support from their children.
Jin, an 80-year-old who lives in Beijing, revealed to the Legal Daily that he has been hoping to find a new partner, but he has encountered resistance from his three children, who are very filial except when it comes to this one issue.
“It is about money. They all say that they worry the woman I find only cares for my money and may disappear with it. This concern makes sense, but it also shows they all want a piece of my belongings too,” said Jin, “After I pass away, the apartment could be sold for millions of yuan.”
Chen, a 71 widower in NHanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, recalled a recent experience he had with sunstroke. At that time, he felt languid and could not move at all. He phoned his children, but they were busy. It was Lu who showed up to tend to him. “If I had to wait for my children to get off work that day before they could pour me a glass of water, I would have thirst to death!” the senior citizen said.
Chen lost his wife four years ago. Feeling lonely, he sought a partner to spend his autumn years with. But he did not expect that his new-found bachelorhood would encounter such strong resistance from his three adult children: a daughter and two sons.
Failing to win the support of his own offspring, Chen dared not propose to an elderly woman he had recently met. Instead, he and the woman, surnamed Lu, agreed to cohabitate in order to fulfil their mutual need for companionship.
Many elderly men and women in China would find Chen’s experience relevant.
Reluctant to offend their children, Chen and Lu’s decision to cohabitate is becoming a popular compromise among those elderly who also find themselves in this dilemma.
Prior to moving in with Lu, Chen spent many months arguing and negotiating with his adult children about remarrying. But as his youngest son is his self-professed favourite, and whose opinion he cares the most about, Chen held back from doing the “troublesome” thing.
China law regarding elderly rights and interests makes it clear to protect their freedom in marriage. But as far as property division, lawyer Chen Wubin said that the two involved may notarize their property before getting married and make agreements about it with children from both sides present so that there will be no dispute or contention later.
“Notarizing property seems heartless, but it actually solves a big problem of their after-marriage life,” said the lawyer.
As statistics from the National Working Commission on Aging show, by 2015 the Chinese population over 60 reached 222 million. By 2020, the number is expected to climb to 248 million, and the elderly will account for 17.17 percent of the total population. The number of Chinese aged 80 or older will also reach 30.67 million by 2020.