Middle-aged people on what it is like to date at their age

By Phan Duong   December 16, 2021 | 08:42 pm PT
Le Thu Hong of Hanoi, whose husband died five years ago, decided to sign up on dating apps to seek romance.

Within a few days the 47-year-old was matched with eight men aged between 35 and 68. She spoke to three of them and has found them polite and committed.

"But it takes time to really know if a person is a truly good match and capable of taking this relationship further," she says.

She decided to take charge and look for relationships on her own after having a bad experience with a man a friend had introduced.

"I did not think he was a good match and did not open up to him," she says.

Le Thu Hong is seen looking out the window from her workplace in Hanoi in December 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong

Le Thu Hong at her workplace in Hanoi in December, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Duong

Vietnam had around 31 million people aged between 35 and 59, according to the 2019 Population and Housing Census.

Due to many factors such as rising life expectancy, and higher divorce rates among middle-aged people, the number of singles in this demographic is large and growing.

Dozens of Facebook groups have been formed to help single middle-aged people meet and make new friends and find love and life partners.

But such groups and apps are not everyone’s cup of tea.

"I stopped using dating apps after meeting some people who used vulgar language," Nhu Phuong, 60, says about her experience using Facebook's Dating group.

"Some wanted to meet up within a few days ago while some lied about their marital status,".

The Hanoi woman divorced seven years ago after separating from her ex-husband 10 years earlier. At first she greatly enjoyed single life, but things changed somewhat when she retired and moved in with her daughter and son-in-law.

"They are busy with their work, so I am often by myself and feel very lonely".

But she gave up trying to find relationships online after realizing how "unhealthy" dating apps were.

Vu Nguyet Anh, a matchmaker with 10 years of experience, says most people middle-aged people are not tech-savvy and so do not often get on dating apps, and there are not many in-person dating clubs for them either.

She says many men and women in this age group come seeking her help to initiate romantic relationships, but she turns them down knowing it will be very difficult to find matches in this demographic.

Due to the scarcity of matchmaking channels for older people, Hoang Le Na, a Hanoi movie director, came up with the idea of making a video titled ‘A Daughter Looking For A Husband For Her Mother’ and posted in online in 2017, hoping it would help her mother find a new life partner.

After Na and her sibling married, they were sad to see their mother, who had divorced 15 years ago, often alone and lonely.

The story about her video quickly made the front pages of many newspapers.

A car garage owner of Vietnamese origin in Australia read one of them and contacted a newspaper to get acquainted with Na's family.

Na's mother and the man, also a divorcee, got along well with each other and ended up getting married in the fall of 2019.

After this Na’s social media account was inundated with pleas from single middle-aged people to find them also a good match.

She says: "After listening to stories of other middle-aged people, I understood that they too, like my mother, had a desire to find happiness but faced many barriers when searching for love. So I try to help them as much as I can".

She set up the Middle Ages Happiness Dating Club along with Anh in 2019. Membership costs VND550,000 ($24) a year, and it currently has more than 200 members. For becoming one, they had to submit identification and proof of their singleness.

The club has managed to match up nearly a dozen couples so far, with one already marrying and another planning to get married soon.

Tran Dong, 54, was one of its first members after his wife passed away a few years ago.

He handles all the chores at home since his son is a busy banker, does not drink or smoke and focuses on running a small shop at home.

After three earlier women, he met Tran Hoa, 42, who has never been married.

"The first time I talked to her I knew right away she was the right match," he says.

After a year and a half they tied the knot in April just before the fourth wave of Covid-19 began.

Na explains the likely reason behind the success story: "Dong has only had one child. He wants to have another child and since Hoa has not been married, they were a perfect match for each other".

Tran Dong (L) proposes to his girlfriend (R) on Nov. 11, 2020, in the presence of matchmaker Le Na (C). Photo courtesy of Middle Age Happiness Dating Club

Tran Dong proposes to his girlfriend Tran Hoa (R), Nov. 11, 2020 in the presence of matchmaker Le Na. Photo courtesy of Middle Age Happiness Dating Club

Matchmaking for middle-aged people, especially those who had failed marriages, is much more challenging than for young couples, Anh says.

"Due to bad previous experiences, they often lose faith in love. Besides, they have greater responsibilities, which hold them back from looking for romance".

While some club members unite in marriage, others do not want to take their relationship to the next level and prefer to remain friends.

When her new boyfriend asked her if she wanted to take their relationship further, Nhu Phuong replied in the negative.

The couple, both in their 60s, met each other at the club, and began to fall in love after doing things like dancing and playing table tennis.

But Phuong repeatedly advises him to find another woman to stay by his side and take care of him since the idea of remarrying has never crossed her mind.

She confides that at her age she is afraid of becoming a bride again and dealing with the responsibilities of being a wife. She is also apprehensive about her health status and becoming an economic burden if she marries.

"In the club, a lot of women think like me. Even if a man has stable finances, we are still very afraid of marrying because it may cause conflicts between him and our children".

As for Hong, she wants to soon find a man who would be a soul mate but does not need to have high social status or support her economically.

She just wants to find "a person who empathizes and shares all joys and sorrows".

Her children and late husband's family support and encourage her to find happiness for herself but also advises her "not to remarry".

But she has made up her mind.

"At an age that is neither young nor old, if I find a suitable person, I will grab that chance and take the relationship further.

"After all, having children take care of you is not like having your companion do it".

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