In contrast to the rest of the U.S. population, the divorce rate among Americans aged 50 and up is booming. In the last twenty years, divorces for people under 50 years old have gradually experienced a considerable dip. Meanwhile, during the same period of time, baby boomers have doubled the rate at which they get divorced, according to a recently released research paper by sociologists with the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University. Several factors help explain the so-called “Gray Divorce Revolution.”
New Concept of Marriage
One potential explanation for the dramatic rise in divorceamong couples over 50 is a societal shift in the concept of marriage as a lifelong institution, according to Bowling Green sociologist Susan Brown. These days, there is a greater emphasis on individual fulfillment and satisfaction in marriage, Brown told NPR. She believes older adults are less willing to stay in unhappy marriages.
Another reason underlying the gray divorce trend is longer life expectancy, which is now close to 80 years, experts say. The divorce rate has experienced a spike partly because more people are staying healthy and active into their 70s and 80s.
Transitions Cited as Causes of Divorce
Finally, the major transitions that people often go through later in life also play a part in the rising divorce rate for people over 50. For couples with children, “empty nest syndrome” might cause tension and conflict when parents are suddenly left without the responsibility of raising the kids. This in turn can lead to a breakdown of their relationship.
Retirement can also have a drastic impact on the marriage. For years, work comprises a huge portion of both spouses’ daily lives, and retirement can force them to adjust to spending much more time together and, in effect, reintroduce themselves to each other, according to The Seattle Times.
Couples who are considering divorce, no matter what their age, should each consult with a knowledgeable and experienced divorce attorney who will help them work towards a fair resolution that protects their financial interests and strives to meet their personal goals.