Gray Divorce: Baby Boomers Lead Nation in Separation
General

Gray Divorce: Baby Boomers Lead Nation in Separation

New census analysis is revealing a startling trend in marriage. Baby boomer couples are getting divorced more than any other age group. Data show that divorce rates for people over 65 have tripled since 1990. Roughly 1 in 4 divorces are in people over 65. This is happening in spite of the fact that divorce is dropping overall, especially for those under 45. This new trend of rising divorce in baby boomers is called “gray divorce”.

Why so many baby boomer divorces?

Researchers believe several different influences are contributing to this phenomenon. When many baby boomers first got married, divorce had a much greater societal taboo associated with it. Additionally, women were much less likely to work outside the house, were busy raising kids, and were more dependent on their husbands. Now, the stigma is decreasing, children are grown and gone, and women are more likely to have jobs where they can support themselves. All of this gives unhappy couples less reason to stay together.

The reasons cited in these divorce proceeding are not wildly different from most. These are things like cheating, abuse, financial challenges, and conflicting cultural or political beliefs. There are only a few stressors that are more likely to happen in older people that could push them towards a divorce. These include one partner developing a long term or life threatening illness, especially one that demands a lot of care, or one partner retiring while the other continues to work.

What is most unique to baby boomer divorce is their position in history and ever-changing culture. Longer life expectancy and improved health in later life mean that people are living longer and healthier lives. This is potentially leading them to reconsider staying in marriages that no longer fulfill them. Older people who are unhappy in their situation realize they don’t have much to lose and would rather spend their remaining years alone instead of with someone they dislike.

Why are there fewer young divorces?

There are plenty of young people getting divorced, but many fewer are getting married in the first place. Marriage rates in our country have been dropping for decades, down roughly 40% since 1990. Fewer marriages in young people lead to fewer divorces. Additionally, younger generations tended to wait longer to get married than boomers did. It is also more likely for younger marrying couples to both have careers rather than just having one breadwinner. Maturing and having more stability before getting married reduces the chances of divorce. That’s how divorce in baby boomers is outpacing divorce in younger age groups.

More loneliness after divorce

These rising divorce rates in baby boomers are a big part of America’s rising loneliness problem. When a couple divorces, one household becomes two single people, usually living alone if not with family or friends. More than 1 in 10 Americans lives alone now. That’s more than ever before, and the fastest growing lonely group is people 65 and older.

Grey divorce results in loss of social support networks for everyone involved. When people divide their lives, surrounding friends and family usually choose sides too, and everyone loses a little bit. Additionally, adult children and even grandchildren area also affected. They will struggle to come to terms with their parents’ divorce. When people are in a relationship, they share responsibilities and support each other. When they separate, each person needs to take on a whole household’s worth of duties. For many, that many just not be possible. As a result, they will need support and assistance from their children during and after this time of transition.

Financial struggles

Gray divorce can cause significant financial strain for those involved. Baby boomers who divorce will face challenges related to dividing assets accumulated over many years, including retirement savings, pensions, and property. As divorce proceedings get complicated, they get more expensive. This adds an additional drain on peoples’ savings at a time in their lives when they can least afford it. As a result, baby boomers and other people going through “gray divorce” will experience a decrease in their standard of living, particularly if they relied on their spouse’s income during marriage.

Unfortunately, the financial risks are often greater for women in these divorces. Many women in this age group did not have careers and were stay-at-home mothers instead. Those that did work usually made a lot less because of gender pay gaps, performing lower-paid jobs, and working part time. As a result, they often have little or no savings of their own. Following divorce, this puts baby boomer women at a much greater disadvantage and higher risk of poverty.

Making the most of a bad situation

If you think you are in a marriage that is headed toward a gray divorce, there are a few things you can do to make the best of a bad situation. First and foremost is to talk to a good divorce lawyer. You’ll need some advice even if the separation is amicable. Reach out to old acquaintances and reconnect with friends and family. This will help combat the loneliness that is likely to come with separating from a long time partner. You should also take stock of your finances and make an inventory of debts and assets. Finally, some counseling might be helpful during this stressful time. It will help you process the emotions of going through such a major transition at this period in your life.

References
  1. USA – Marriage rate 2021 | Statista. (2024, March 21). Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/195951/marriage-rate-in-the-united-states-since-1990
  2. Shoichet, C. E. (2023). More Baby Boomers are living alone. One reason why: ‘gray divorce’. CNN. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2023/08/05/health/boomers-divorce-living-alone-wellness-cec/
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  3. Jayson, S. (2023). Divorce Skyrocketing Among Aging Boomers. AARP. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2023/gray-divorce-trend.html
  4. Iacurci, G. (2024). ‘Gray divorce’ has doubled since the ’90s — and the financial risk is high for women. CNBC. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2024/03/23/why-gray-divorce-is-a-significant-financial-risk-for-women.html?utm_source=pocket-newtab-en-us

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