Many elderly people in India are feeling lonely and isolated as they lose their spouses or live away from their children. They crave for a companion who can share their joys and sorrows, and make their twilight years more meaningful and fulfilling.
According to a Lancet study, life expectancy in India has risen by a decade, from 59.6 years in 1990 to 70.8 years in 2019. As of July 2022, the country had 149 million people aged 60 years and above, comprising 10.5% of the total population. This number is expected to double by 2050, surpassing the number of children in the country.
However, along with the growing elderly population, there is also an increasing incidence of loneliness and isolation in old age, which can lead to depression, cognitive decline, dementia and high blood pressure. A study by PAN Healthcare in 2020 revealed that more than 65% of 10,000 people across 10 Indian cities were lonely.
The challenges of finding love in old age
Some senior citizens are not willing to spend the rest of their lives alone and are looking for a partner who can provide them with emotional and physical support. They are turning to matchmaking platforms, dating apps and social groups to find their soulmates.
One such matchmaking platform is Happy Seniors, started by Madhav Damle, a 68-year-old resident of Pune, in 2012. Damle saw that many senior parents were left behind by their children who moved abroad for work or education, and felt the need for companionship after losing their spouses. He decided to help them find partners who share their interests, values and lifestyles.
Happy Seniors has united 75 senior couples till date, who have either married or moved in together. Damle counsels the potential couples to be open-minded, live in for a few months, and sign an agreement on their finances and responsibilities before taking the final step.
Another option for seniors is to use dating apps like Quack Quack, which has seen a steady rise in the number of senior users. A recent online survey by Quack Quack, with 6,000 participants between 50 to 68 years of age, revealed that 38% of seniors from Tier I cities felt that society would rather have them join golf clubs or yoga classes than be on a dating site. It also said that 34% of male daters from Tier II cities who were widowed, divorced or never married found solace in dating, and 27% of women above 50 sought companionship over love.
Dating apps give seniors the advantage of being discreet, choosing their own terms of relationship, and avoiding the pressure of marriage.
The social and legal barriers to late-life relationships
Despite the legal sanction for live-in relationships and remarriage in India, senior citizens have to face cultural factors, social acceptance, and the stigma associated with finding love in old age. They also have to deal with the issue of inheritance, which can create conflicts with their children and families.
As per the Indian Succession Act of 1925, a widower is entitled to one-third property of the deceased spouse and, in the case of an inter-faith marriage, the wife is entitled to inheritance as per the personal laws applicable to the religion of her husband.
Therefore, many seniors prefer dating or living together to avoid these complexities and the fight for acceptance. However, they still have to deal with the opposition and resentment of their children, relatives and society, who may not understand their need for companionship.
Especially for women, finding a partner in old age is considered a taboo and a betrayal of their family values. They are expected to be nurturers and caregivers, and not assert their right to security and happiness.
Some senior citizens, however, are determined to overcome these barriers and find love again. They are willing to stand their ground and make their choices public, even if it means going against the norms and expectations of their families and society.
They believe that loneliness can hit anyone at any time, and that they deserve to have someone who can touch them, take a personal interest in their health and wellbeing, and have conversations with them.
They believe that this is a fundamental need in all of us, and that depriving someone—especially in their old age—of this right is not just unfair, but also cruel.