by Rachel Small
At a time when divorce rates are falling, it turns out that people over 60 are divorcing at an alarming rate. What are some of the reasons for dumping a spouse after 40 or 50 years?
In a study by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) in 2004 of people aged 40-79, it was found that 66 percent of the women instigated divorce actions. Some said they could no longer endure drug or alcohol addiction. Others divorced because of physical and emotional abuse or for infidelity.
Researchers claim retirement is a strain on marriage, just as the empty nest may start the process of thinking about divorce. In Japan, women called retired husbands a nuisance. Some women can’t stand their spouse home all day. In the U.K., gray divorce is becoming an epidemic. In Italy, married couples 55 and over seeking legal separation rose by three and a half percent, and those filing for divorce grew by three percent from 2000-2004.
U.S. census figures reveal divorce rates for those over 65 have doubled since 1980. Divorces in this age bracket grew to eight percent of all divorces in 2004. Older couples experiencing problems are less likely to seek professional counseling because they often consider it a stigma. Women from traditional backgrounds are rebelling late in marriages which subsume or suppress their individuality. They are often disappointed that an equal union, which is expected to provide personal fulfillment, has not been a reality.
It appears that older people are learning from younger generations that it’s better to be happy and alone than miserable and married. While they are looking forward to a longer and healthier life, they may be seeking new partners or entering into new marriages. But if they do not find a new partner, who will they rely on if they become ill or incapacitated?
The divorces of people in this age range have very real emotional and practical impacts on their children and grandchildren. Divorce can cause division among family members with divided loyalties. In some cases it creates “no-win situations” for their adult children. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss the impact of senior divorces on the immediate and extended family in a second article. Watch for it.