Li Changqing has made a promise to his girlfriend: If he lives to be 100, he'll marry her. It's not that far away; he's already 96 years old.
The couple met last year after Li moved into the Yishouyuan retirement community in Changzhou, Jiangsu province. They now share an apartment.
"We were introduced by a mutual friend, a volunteer who cares for veterans," said Li, a former soldier who trained at the prestigious Huangpu Military Academy when he was 19.
"She looks after me very well," he said, explaining that in return, he checks her blood pressure daily and cooks healthy porridge. "I feel happy that we get along together. Life isn't dull any more."
Love Delivery Hotline, an advice service that has catered to lonely elderly people since 2006, said there is much demand for companionship among older generations.
It received more than 3,000 calls and about 3,000 messages from senior citizens in the first three months of this year, spokeswoman Lin Xue said.
"We often get calls from people who are single or have lost a spouse," she said, adding that the hotline organizes monthly activities to help elderly people make new friends, male and female.
"Most are very reserved and very shy," she said. "They worry about the opinions of their children and about property issues.
"Many want to look for a new partner, but the success rate is very low."
Managers at several Chinese care homes agreed that romance is rare among residents.
A director of the Yishouyuan community said she had known of only one couple before Li and his girlfriend, but they had moved away, fearing comments from others.
Liu Aiping, president of Yangzhou Social Welfare Institute, said she only knew of one couple who had met at her facility, and added that the elderly face many obstacles in finding romance.
"First, physical condition needs to be taken into consideration; whether they are healthy or not," she said.
"Moreover, the support or objections of their children will influence any decision they make," Liu added.
Fortunately for Li and his girlfriend in Changzhou, their offspring supported the twilight romance.
"I visit my father once a week and bring food for him and his partner," said the former soldier's son, Li Yiming. "I'm happy that he's found someone he enjoys being with. They're good together."
Cao Sujuan, vice-president of Beijing's first social welfare institute, said the average age of its residents is about 83, and 60 percent of them are unable to care for themselves.