The introductory music was thumping, the male dating show contestant had walked onstage, and now came the interview portion, where female guests asked questions. One of the women launched right in.
“Hello, sir,” said the 59-year-old woman, Yu Xia, scrutinizing the prospect intently through her rectangular glasses. “Is your child a son or a daughter? You said your wife died three years ago — have you come out from that shadow? And your health, it’s pretty good, right?”
Welcome to one of China’s hottest new genres of television: dating shows for older people.
In some ways, the programs — at least 10 of which have emerged in recent years, featuring contestants mostly in their 50s and above — are little different from the fare offered for younger contestants. Hopefuls discuss hobbies, strut for the camera and size up each other’s appearances.
But in between the lighthearted flirtations, the programs also tackle some of the heavier realities of China’s rapidly aging population, one-third of which is expected to be 60 or older by 2050. All guests are asked about their health and pensions. Often, participants are startlingly blunt about what drove them to the stage — a widower recalls tender memories of his deceased wife, a divorced woman describes a loneliness so deep that she started talking to her television.
In response to Ms. Yu’s rapid-fire questions, the male guest, Li Guobin, 57, nodded. “Time has passed; I think I’ve emerged. But the love hasn’t been forgotten.”
“It can’t be forgotten,” Ms. Yu, also widowed, replied. “So what you need is another partner to take care of you, right?”
Most of all, the shows are helping to encourage more conversations about the social, romantic and sexual needs of older people. In China, as in many parts of the world, ageism has long made those topics taboo; in Chinese society in particular, many older people are expected to put the needs of younger generations first. Children often worry that a parent’s decision to buck tradition and seek companionship later in life could harm their own social standing or prospects at work.
Some contestants said they had wanted to find a partner, but were previously too embarrassed to …….