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Why are divorce rates amongst the elderly on the rise?

unhappy couple

Divorce rates in the United Kingdom have been an issue of topic and debate for years now. However, one aspect of this discussion that is often ignored is the growing number of over-60s who are getting divorced.

‘The silver separators’, as the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK) coined them in a 2014 report, have been getting divorced more and more.

Between 1990 and 2012, there was a truly massive 85% rise in divorces amongst the over-60s. This increase has been largely ignored as, throughout the greater society, divorce rates have been falling. ‘The silver separators’ have been side-lined as the general population becomes distracted by a distorted view of the overall figures.

The over-60s have the fastest growing divorce rate of any age group, but why?

Marrying Later

According to the ILC-UK, the improving life expectancy of the general population is at the heart of the matter. People are living longer and, as a result, are marrying and remarrying far later in life. Regardless of age, the threat of divorce is most prevalent in the early years of marriage, with the first 10 years being the most exposed. Therefore with people marrying later in life and living longer, a rise in divorce rates is to be expected. However, other than people generally marrying later in life, there are societal changes that have led to the rise of ‘the silver separators’.

Female Financial Independence

The increasing success of women gaining financial independence from their husbands has, the report suggests, had the effect of increasing the divorce rate. By becoming financially independent, women who felt tied to their husbands for simply monetary reasons, have seen divorce as a more viable option. With further reform of the state pension meaning women are being awarded added contributions for time taken caring for their children, the over-60s female population is become ever more financially independent.

Shifting Attitudes

Following the 1969 Divorce Reform Act, divorce became much easier and the divorce rate shot up. During 1971, when the Act became law, the number of divorces in the UK exceeded 100,000 for the first time. Ever since, divorce has become a more accepted part of society and life. Aside from progressive legislation, the liberal attitudes of today’s over-60s had also been a contributing factor to the increasing divorce rate. The baby boomer generation was at the heart of great cultural shifts and cleavages, and today they are feeling that continuing in an unhappy marriage is not a necessity.