In recent years, a lot has been written about the fact that divorce rates among people over 50 are rising, while other generations are staying married longer. For example, over the last 20 years, baby boomer divorce rates have increased 50%.
It’s hard to pin down exactly why this is happening. Is this a trend that we will see among all generations as they get older? Or, is there something specific about our generation’s history that makes us more restless?
Regardless of the reasons for the surging divorce rate among baby boomers, one thing is clear – the fact that we are separating so late in life is going to have a major impact on society. This is not a simple matter of who we decide to spend our time with. The rise of divorce after 50 will shake our health systems, social relationships, and housing preferences to their very foundations.
In a previous article, I discussed my own experience with divorce and offered some advice for other women who may be going through the same thing. Here, I would like to talk more about the implications of divorce after 50 because I believe that this is a significant social issue.
According to some studies, loneliness can be as bad for your health as obesity. Humans are social creatures and, when we feel isolated, every aspect of our life suffers. Divorce impacts our social relationships in many ways. Not only do we lose the constant contact, good or bad, that we had from our partner, but, we are also pulled away from many joint friendships.
To be clear, I’m not saying that anyone should stay in a relationship that isn’t right for them. Far from it! I’m simply saying that, as individuals, we need to be prepared to redefine our relationships after a divorce and, as a society, we need to be ready to help people that are suffering from loneliness to get back on their feet.
The UK has been ahead of the curve in this regard and has already funded several programs to help address loneliness among older adults. These include the Campaign to End Loneliness and Age UK. I suspect that a large part of their motivation for doing so is that they see a looming health crisis and want to prevent as much suffering (and cost to the social system) as possible.
In recent years, companies have realized the market opportunity that our generation represents and have launched all manner of “dating for seniors” websites. While many of these sites have met with success, it is also clear to me that not all boomers are looking for another serious relationship.
As I talk to the women in the Sixty and Me community about dating after 60, I receive strong opinions. Some women are still very open to finding another man after 60, but, say that the going is tough. Others tell me that they are no longer interested in starting a romantic relationship and they would rather focus on building friendships instead.
Regardless of their opinions about dating, almost every woman that I talk to says that they would like to have more interesting people – men and women – in their life. We all want people to share our passions and dreams with, even if we look at relationships differently than we did in our 20s, 30s, and 40s.
For most of our lives, choosing where to live was a group decision. Many of us had to compromise with our spouses or move to find work. Those of us with families looked for large homes in good neighborhoods to give our kids the best possible start.
For those of us that find ourselves single in our 50s and 60s, we have never had more options. Some of us will choose to downsize our lives or embrace the tiny home movement. Others will look for a roommate or group living situation.
Once again, this trend represents an opportunity for businesses and governments around the world. Single men and women over 60 want to be around other people, even if we aren’t looking for a relationship.
At the same time, we want to maintain our independence and have the freedom to pursue our passions. Organizations that develop living solutions that allow us to accomplish both will do extremely well in the decades to come.
The baby boomer generation is so large and powerful that it changes every aspect of society as it touches. The fact that we are choosing to get divorced at increasingly higher rates in our 50s and 60s is going to change the social dynamic once again. As the dust settles, companies and governments that respond quickly will thrive, while others are left behind.
Have you gone through a divorce after 50? How did it change your lifestyle and plans for the future? How do you think that the rise of divorce among baby boomers will impact society? Please add your thoughts in the comments below.
Find out more about the importance of having great friends after 60 in my interview with Suzanne Braun Levine.
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