Couples in later life
As the divorce rate drops among other age groups, the rate of separations between couples in their 50s and 60s continues to rise. Not so much a seven-year itch as a 27- or 37-year one, the number of over-60s divorcing has risen by over a third in a decade.
While some suspect the disparity in the figures may be down to wealth – recession-hit younger couples cannot afford to separate, unlike older people whose children have left home and who have equity in their home – a report by the charity Relate warned of a looming crisis among older people, who are far more likely to be living alone than those from previous generations. People born in the postwar bubble between 1946 and 1964 will be the first generation for whom living alone in old age may be the norm, with all the troubling related issues of caring, loneliness and financial security. The number of over-60s getting divorced is rising each year, a record 15,275 in 2011 compared with 13,554 the year before and 10,273 a decade ago.
There is an acronym for the children of these break-ups, "Acods" – adult children of divorce – who can find the break-up of their parents' marriage a challenge. Studies suggest adult children give more support to a widowed parent than to a divorced one. For the non-celebrity, non-loaded baby boomer, there is the added worry of a lonely future. "We're the baby-boomer generation, the first have-it-all generation; but we went at such a rate it was a challenge to know ourselves in among the busyness," said divorcee and therapist Jackie Walker, 53. "Sadly too many get stuck in their homes after divorce, especially women. Men can often trade in for a newer model but women tend to find that more difficult. "The important thing is that I'm wholeheartedly sure that divorce can be a good thing. Why would you stay with someone just because you fear living alone? You both maybe can't stand each other and haven't for some time. It can lead to depression and anxiety when you are not connecting with someone.
The approach of retirement is often a key factor in couples deciding to separate. They may realize there's nothing left to bind them together. People may try and hang on until the children have grown, then they think it's time for us, time for me. Finances aren't so stretched. It's a lot easier to divorce when you're older, without child support issues.