Over the past few years, IKEA has become a hotspot for elderly romance in China.
Scores of lonely senior citizens regularly gather at the Swedish furniture store, where they would buy a cup of coffee on their membership card and spend hours just chatting with their peers. There was even a lonely hearts club for the elderly, which met twice every week to look for possible partners.
However, the IKEA in Shanghai has had enough of old people hogging tables in their cafeteria. The retail giant recently introduced a strict “no-food, no seat” policy to discourage senior citizens from being there for extended periods.
“The situation has adversely affected the dining experience and security of most of our customers,” the store said in a giant notice erected at the entrance. “It is having a negative implication for our canteen's operation. From today, the restaurant will only be for people who purchase their food first.”
The establishment also accused an “illegal blind-dating group” of “taking up seats for long hours, bringing outside food and tea, speaking loudly, spitting, and having quarrels and fights.”
The new rules, which caused a sharp drop in customers, drew ire from people across the country.
“They are harmless,” wrote an online user on Chinese social media website Weibo, while another commented, "What wrong are they doing? They are lonely and are probably hoping to find some company again. If anything, the store should practice empathy and at least sympathize with these old people.”
More than 16 percent of the entire Chinese population is above 60 years of age and more than half of them live alone, according to a survey conducted by Renmin University of China earlier this year. A quarter of them even admitted they feel lonely.
“We've been to fast food outlets like McDonald's — but there are barely any peers there,” an 86-year-old man who went by Qiu told the Global Times newspaper. “We feel like aliens — surrounded by youngsters. If there is another place in Shanghai where elderly people can gather, we are more than ready to pay twice as much and travel further.”
For past two years, he had been visiting the cafeteria thrice weekly with his wife.
Find out more in the video above.