Why are More Seniors Divorcing?
Gray divorce, or divorce among people over the age of 50, is double what it was in 1990. This is true even though divorce rates overall have been on a decline over the last twenty years. A lack of commitment is often cited as a main reason for divorce, so why is it that the ones who have been married the longest are now the most likely to separate?
People Are Living Longer
At age 65, it is still possible to live at least another 20 years. Therefore, if a marriage is not working, it may seem that the best option is to get a divorce rather than remain together unhappy. Also, the possibility of a long life can encourage seniors to look for ways to find fulfillment outside of marriage.
Women Are More Independent
Women have worked for decades by the time they reach their fifties. They’ve raised families, maintained a work-life balance, and built a nest egg. Some are still moving up in their careers. At this point, women have accomplished a lot on their own, and they may desire to have the house to themselves and focus on achieving personal fulfillment. Financial and emotional independence also means that women do not have to stay with someone who cheated on them or in some other way mistreats them.
The Convenience of Modern Technology
With modern-day conveniences like online shopping, cell phones, and the ability to connect via social media, it sometimes doesn’t seem necessary to remain in a committed relationship for companionship or daily support.
People Are Aging with More Grace Than Ever Before
Aging is difficult, but with modern medicine, it is becoming easier for those with means than it has ever been before. This may mean that seniors feel they no longer need a marriage companion to help them with the aging process. Furthermore, if it’s possible to age with grace then it is also possible to continue to set goals and maintain a bucket list. Divorce, therefore, allows them freedom for personal goals.
No Romance and an Empty Nest
After years of marriage and all the problems they’ve resolved together, couples may have grown apart. The newness is long gone along with the romance leaving them bereft of any desire to stay married, and with the children out of the house, there is no longer a need to maintain a family unit. Furthermore, with kids living on their own, seniors now have social media and senior dating sites to help reconnect with an old love or find a new one.
Pandemic lockdowns forced couples of all ages to forgo normal social activities and stay together 24/7. Any problems in the relationship became unavoidably obvious making it much easier than before to realize that some differences are irreconcilable.
Retirement keeps couples together all day long. Unlike during the lockdowns, it is possible to maintain social activities as well as to get involved in new things, but the old habit of being apart for forty-plus hours each week is no longer a reality. Too much time together can make a couple desire more time apart. Plus, seniors with a reliable nest egg have more time on their hands to develop individual interests, which can help keep some couples together, but the opportunity for personal fulfillment may pull others apart.
Divorce among older adults may be driven by the fear of becoming a caregiver to their partner in case of an illness. This is especially true if the couple disagrees about health issues, such as preventive medicine or overall wellness. There may also be a fear of dealing with their own concerns about what might happen to them as go further up in age.
In today’s economy, baby boomers are oftentimes not able to simply take care of themselves during retirement. They may find themselves financially helping their children and grandchildren. This means that money problems remain ever-present for older couples, and money problems are a common cause of divorce.
Blame It on Their Generation
Baby boomers protested the Vietnam War and fought for civil rights. They were around to see the impact of television on society and, later, the change caused by cell phones and social media. Seniors have lived for too long and witnessed too much to think they need to remain stuck in an unhappy marriage for the sake of convention. Gen Xers were born at a time when divorce was increasingly common but still remembered as something taboo. Many were latchkey kids who learned to do things on their own without parental supervision and guidance, making divorce seem normal.
Rates of gray divorce continues to grow throughout the US. In a state such as Florida, which has a large population of older adults, women over 50 have an 11.4% divorce rate. There are a variety of reasons why a couple may divorce, but it is certain that a growing number of older adults are facing this life change. Beyond the causes of divorce, it may also be that senior couples are forgetting reasons to stay together, such as companionship, the impact of marriage on overall health, and shared resources.