As baby boomers reach retirement-age, there is an accompanying high divorce rate. In fact, this phenomenon has been named ‘gray divorce,’ characterized by couples divorcing over the age of 50. The increased divorce rate in seniors is based on a number of factors.
Baby boomers have always had a higher divorce rate that previous generations. In fact, baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964 experienced a triple divorce rate over their parents generation.
The population as a whole has experienced a drop in the divorce rate lately. Today, the divorce rate is 3.5 per 1,000 people versus the peak of 5.3 in 1981. The divorce rate of seniors has doubled in the last twenty years. Today, persons who divorced over 50 increased to 25 percent, versus only 8 percent in 1990. The U.S. Census reports that couples who reach their 20th anniversary has decreased by 20% for couples married between 1955 and 1984.
A longer life span may contribute to the high divorce rate of seniors. When Social Security was established in 1934, the average life span was 65. Today that figure has increased to the upper 70’s. People no longer see their retirement age as a period of slowing down. Likewise, if a couple hasn’t addressed their marital issues prior to retiring, they will surely confront them after. No longer able to retreat to work and family, many couples find they cannot resolve issues that have been hidden for years.
Retirement often forces couples to spend more time together. Many couples find they no longer share common interests and choose to go their separate ways.
Since baby boomer women have been in the workforce more than their mothers, they are often more financially independent and less likely to stay in an unfulfilling marriage. In fact, women initiate over two-thirds of divorce proceedings in couples over 50.
A larger acceptance by society of divorce and the advent of no-fault divorce in most states has also contributed to the high divorce rate. As more baby-boomers reach retirement age, many will find their marriage will not survive.
By Gail Massey