At a time when divorce rates for people under 50 somewhat stabilized or dropped, the divorce rate for people over the age 50 has doubled. And it’s more than doubled for those over the age of 65.
Since 1990, one out of every four people going through a divorce are 50 or older, and almost one in 10 is 65 or older. This rate is puzzling to the researchers in this study, Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin, sociologists at Bowling Green State University. But even more perplexing was the fact that half of all gray divorces are to couples in first marriages. 55 percent of gray divorces occur between couples married for more than 20 years. “We found that flabbergasting,” said Brown.
Reason for Gray Divorce?
Researchers are still looking into the why behind these gray divorces. “It’s not as if marital quality has suddenly declined. Instead, I think we have higher expectations now for what constitutes a successful marriage. We expect spouses to be best friends and marriage a source of happiness and fulfillment,” Brown said.
Rise in Women’s Independence
Interestingly enough, and a fact that might play into this reason, is that divorce often tends to be initiated by women. “As women achieve more financial independence and autonomy, frankly, they can afford to get divorced,” Brown continued. “And after you’ve launched your children and retire, people may realize, ‘Boy, we don’t have much in common, and I could live another 20 years.’ That’s a long time to live with someone you may not be that into anymore.”
New Era of Freedom
For seniors in good health, who have the financial means, a gray divorce might just mean a new era of freedom and independence, according to Brown. For those not in great financial standing, divorcing at an older age can mean falling into poverty. Yet still, researchers note that older divorced Americans only have 20 percent as much wealth as elderly married couples.
While the exact reason isn’t known, what is clear is that marriage doesn’t always mean, “’til death do us part.”
Source: The Washington Post, Till Death Do Us Part? No way. Gray Divorce on the Rise, October 8, 2014