Why elderly Italians are saying 'I do' to their foreign carers

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More than 30,000 elderly Italians have married thier foreign care workers over the last decade. Photo: Stvcr
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More than 30,000 elderly Italians have married their carers over the past 10 years over fears they will face their twilight years alone.

In an extremely sad phenomenon for Italy, the number of such marriages, usually between men of between 70 and 85 years and their foreign care workers, has grown rapidly since 2013, according to the figures from Istat, the national statistics agency.

But the nuptials have nothing to do with love.

The women, mostly eastern European and Asian immigrants, are generally employed by the pensioners as home help, and work long hours for very low pay.

They see marrying their employer as an ideal way to escape the trap by rapidly obtaining a visa and perhaps, if they're lucky, gain some inheritance too.

“We're talking about very unscrupulous women,” marriage lawyer Luca Berni told La Stampa.

While the majority of Italian pensioners willingly tie the knot to fend off loneliness, some have fallen prey to abusive care staff, who force them into marriage or worse - try to kill them for inheritance.

La Stampa pointed to the case of Elena Basova, a Russian carer who allegedly abused her 78-year-old husband before trying to kill him by leaving the gas on at home.

But the issue has deeper roots and in the majority of cases widowed, divorced or single pensioners choose to marry – driven by their own sense of solitude.

One Italian pensioner near Parma recently tied the knot with his care worker even though he was fully aware that she was only doing it for the visa, and despite vociferous protests from his family.

Gian Ettore Grassani, the head of Ami, the Italian marriage lawyers' association, told The Local that the main source of the problem is families abandoning their elderly relatives – making them easy prey for exploitative care workers.

“Most of them prefer a blonde angel to children who can't even remember to say happy birthday,” Grassini said.

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"These days there is so much solitude among the elderly  – they don't stay with their families like they used to and often feel abandoned."

Grassini, whose book I Perplessi Sposi (The Confused Spouses), analyzed growing marriage rates among the elderly in general, added that the phenomenon is destined to keep growing.

"We have one of the oldest populations in Europe and we are seeing more and more immigration too," he said.

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