Sunday, January 15, 2006


Divorce among older people remains a rarity--only I percent of all divorces in the United States involve people over 65. People from age 50 to 64 account for only 4 percent of all divorces while people aged 25 to 29 account for about 22.5 percent of all divorces. The lifetime experience with divorce among older people is also far below that of the younger population. Experts predict that late life divorce will continue to remain a rarity--primarily because those who remain married in late life are people who have already successfully weathered the storms of marriage for many years. Even though divorce will remain comparatively rare among the old, it is also true that the termination of marriage after age 65 has increased. While the divorce rate for the entire population was growing five times, it doubled among the elderly. Further, more people in the future will enter their advanced years as divorcees, so that the status of being a divorced person will become more common among the older generation in the years ahead.
When divorce does occur in late life, the problems are certainly as serious, and possibly more serious, than in early life. Research shows that women suffer a severe divorce, children's and grandchildren's 7S impairment to their financial situation, and men experience difficulty in their personal lives. Divorced people report less satisfaction with family life, lower rates of personal happiness. Mortality records show that divorced people have a higher death rate than the rest of the population.
Because divorce in late life may result from stress caused by illness of one or the other of the marital partners, the difficulties of coping with a new life situation may be even more acute than for younger divorcees; and relationships with kin, children, and grandchildren may suffer. Successful divorce in late life requires careful provision for the financial well-being of both parties, candid discussion and resolution of personal and emotional conflicts, and efforts to maintain good relationships with family and friends.
Uhlenberg, P., and Myers, M. A. P., "Divorce Among the Elderly." The Gerontologist: 21, 276-282 (1981).


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