Matchmaker lines up right catch for seniors

Updated: 2012-01-11 08:06

By Liu Ce (China Daily)

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 Matchmaker lines up right catch for seniors

Zhou Shuhua, 80, a resident in Shenyang, capital of Northeast China's Liaoning province, is deemed by many, as what reads on the scroll in calligraphy on the wall behind her, "China's No 1 Matchmaker". Wang Qibo / for China Daily

Service has helped more than 1,000 couples find love in twilight years

SHENYANG - In a shabby office, a woman with gray hair and wearing red clothes is busy answering phones.

"Your name? How old? And your health? How many relatives are there in your family and which kind of person are you looking for?" Zhou Shuhua asked, recording answers on cards.

Within two hours, she received 17 applications for her matchmaking service - all people above 60 years old.

"Seniors need more care. That's why we are looking for partners for them to make them happy," Zhou said. On the wall hangs a scroll in calligraphy reading "China's No 1 Matchmaker".

Zhou, 80, founded the country's earliest matchmaking service center for seniors.

In 1985, when Zhou was working as a janitor of a community activity center in Shenyang, Liaoning province, she noticed that there were always dozens of older people unwilling to go back home when it closed at 5 pm.

"I can't lock the door if they don't go back home. So I asked them why they didn't leave," she said.

At first she got nothing but stares in return, but through persistence she got the answer she was looking for: "Why go home? My partner is gone."

That's when Zhou came up with the idea of introducing partners for seniors.

"Most of them have lost their spouses. They are lonely. I felt I should do something to help them," she said.

When she opened a matchmaking service center for seniors at the neighborhood committee, she got 28 applicants on the first day.

"This indicated that seniors need the service and this gave me confidence," said Zhou.

She has successfully set up more than 1,000 couples over the past 26 years.

However, a second marriage for seniors was not easily accepted in the 1980s, and Zhou had to face a lot of criticism.

When Zhou took the seniors on dates, rumors went around like: "It's her, it's her. So immoral, setting people up in a relationship!" Even worse, children of the couple blamed her, questioning "why do you want to fix up my dad with others?"

But Zhou never yielded. "Why not? As long as they don't have a spouse, I can introduce anyone to them."

The main reason standing in the way of a second marriage is property, which is the major concern for both families.

To ease those concerns, Zhou lets them know about prenuptial agreements, and invites lawyers to give free lectures in the office.

Besides disagreements from children, the seniors also have their own concerns.

"I felt embarrassed at first. I was afraid of people's gossip," said Yu Shaomin, 78. His wife had died and Zhou set him up with his current wife in 1985.

Zhou keeps telling people that everyone has the right to pursue happiness. Life without a companion is dull and cold.

"Besides, your children will feel assured if you have a partner," she said.

Yu is very thankful to Zhou. "She brought sunshine to our family. Before the second marriage, I was on the verge of despair. But now, life has revived."

In the 1990s, Zhou's career gradually won people's acceptance, and they began to view her as a warm-hearted person.

"I knew that it was right to hold onto it," said Zhou with cheerful laughter.

Now, she and her 10 volunteers, all retired, wait by the telephone every morning to register applicants. She matches people according to their information.

She sets up blind dates in her office. After a brief introduction, she will leave the two alone to get to know each other.

If they are willing to get into marriage, Zhou will show them how to do the prenuptial agreement and other procedures. If they are not into each other, Zhou will help them find someone else.

Every Tuesday and Friday, Zhou holds a matchmaking party. Registrants post their information card on the wall and talk to those they are interested in.

"She is always passionate, smiling and self-sacrificing. She is our team leader," said Wang Suhua, a five-year volunteer.

Besides matchmaking, Zhou organizes activities such as singing, playing the piano and modeling.

"We are always happy when she is around," said Wang Suhua.

Zhou loves red and all her clothes are red. "Red is passionate and optimistic," she said.

China Daily

(China Daily 01/11/2012 page2)