Among U.S. adults ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has roughly doubled since the 1990s, according to a Pew Research Center report. What has been called “gray” divorce is often attributed to the fact…
Among U.S. adults ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has roughly doubled since the 1990s, according to a Pew Research Center report. What has been called “gray” divorce is often attributed to the fact that people are living longer. But there are other factors at work driving this.
Why the Uptick?
The blessing and curse of a longer life is that many people are re-evaluating. The idea of staying in an unhappy situation for the sake of whomever and whatever is no longer appealing when faced with possibly 30 more years of life. People want to live that life.
There is a reduced stigma in society toward divorce, and baby boomers are no stranger to it. Plus, remarriages tend to not last as long as the first attempt. Among all adults 50 and older who divorced in 2015, 48 percent had been in their second or higher marriage.
In some cases — not all — both husband and wife are financially stable and able to independently move on.
Money issues are certainly one issue that can blindside people. I have friends who remarried at 50 and chose to have kids. Well, at 73, they may just be finishing putting those offspring through college.
Women (and men) who stepped away from a career to raise those kids now face the prospect of having to re-enter the workforce, and let’s not kid ourselves: Ageism in the workplace is real. So it’s much harder to obtain a job and keep one as you age.
Most people have not saved enough to retire securely, and those who have retired might face the prospect of having to un-retire. Having to run a household by yourself also takes its toll financially and physically.
Keeping Up Relationships
Adult children of boomer divorces and grandchildren can feel the impact. Grandchildren, in particular, who are used to seeing grandma and grandpop as a couple, may struggle to understand what’s going on. It’s important to acknowledge their feelings and offer support.
Historically, women can cope much better with living alone then men. I just took an 89-year-old World War 2 veteran on an Honor Flight. One of the things we asked the family to do was write letters for mail call on the plane ride home. It seemed like a simple request. Well, my veteran remarried after his wife passed, and some of his kids were not too pleased. The ones that were cool with it wrote the letters.
There’s a new phenomenon among older couples called “living apart together.” It’s where both parties are perfectly happy having a great relationship but choose to live alone at the end of the day. And of course, we know that senior dating and dating sites are on the rise.
It’s important to maintain other close relationships with friends, family members and the ex so that you have stability, emotional support and time to focus on you and getting on with your life. Senior isolation and the resulting depression are real issues.
Use common sense. You may feel liberated, but divorce is still a shock and may have unseen consequences to your physical and mental health. So be aware and make sure to continue to have regular checkups to keep your health in order.
Don’t rush into any major decisions without first asking for good impartial advice from friends, lawyers or financial advisers. Remember, you may be overlaying complexity on a situation where blended families are involved, and some unscrupulous family members have their eye on your assets.
Be careful not to talk ill of your partner, however strong your feelings, and be respectful of any new partner he or she might choose. This can be very difficult at first, but there’s nothing to be gained from an acrimonious split and, in the long term, good relationships with all your family will bring you great comfort and support.
It’s time to move on with your life. Be thankful for all the good memories you made together and grateful for the family and friends who came into your life because of your marriage. Then keep busy, look after yourself, eat well and allow yourself time to rest and recover properly.