When it comes to the topic of gray divorce, the growing trend of divorce among couples in the Baby Boom generation, we are now finding out even more information about why seniors entering their “golden years” are deciding to end their marriages — and exactly who it is filing the divorce papers.
For starters, new statistics show that for the first time, more older Americans (age 50 +) are divorced than are widowed. Only 50 years ago, roughly 3 percent of Americans older than 50 were divorced. By 2000, approximately 12 percent were. In 2011, according to Census Bureau stats, 15.4 percent were divorced and another 2.1 percent were separated. In comparison, 13.5 percent of older Americans were widowed in 2011.
Who is most likely to initiate divorce among the senior set? Women, according to a recent report in the NY Times.
As Stephanie Coontz, a professor of family history at Evergreen State College in Washington State described in the piece, “Women have long been more sensitive to — or less tolerant of — a mediocre relationship than men.” However, in contrast to the past where women typically did not have as much economic independence as men, this is no longer the case today for many older women. As Professor Coontz explained, “With their increased work experience and greater sense of their own possibilities, they are less willing to just ‘wait it out.’ We expect to find equality, intimacy, friendship, fun, and even passion right into what people used to see as the ‘twilight years.’”
According to Coontz’s observations, the longer life expectancy of Boomer women also means more time to contemplate and carry through with plans to divorce.
Researchers at Bowling Green studying census data on senior divorce have likewise found societal acceptance of divorce and increased economic autonomy of women as key factors driving the trend of gray divorce. If the rate remains constant, researchers are now predicting “a 25 percent increase in the number of people that will experience divorce” over the next two decades among Americans 50 and older.
Are you considering a gray divorce? Whether you are a woman or man, contemplating divorce when you are older often brings with it questions and concerns related to retirement planning, health care costs, alimony, and estate planning for older children. For more, please read our other resources on the topic: