Gray divorce, or divorce among potentially gray haired folks is on the rise. Studies show that while overall divorce rates have remained stable across the country since 1990, divorces for couples over 50 that have been married for decades and often have grown children have nearly doubled. In 2010, studies showed that nearly 25% of divorcees were over the age of 50, while 10% were over the age of 65.
While embarking upon divorce is a tough decision and a life altering process, there are very specific sets of challenges that arise when divorce occurs later in life. Specifically, financial stressors, the drastic change of lifestyle and loneliness are three major factors to consider for older couples contemplating divorce.
Financial issues can be a large hurdle to overcome for those in or nearing retirement. When a couple has been together for many years, they may have had long professional careers, amassed retirement funds, grown investments and purchased property. It may not be as easy to divide up assets between spouses when there have been many years and dollars invested throughout the relationship.
Another financial issue that may arise is deciding which spouse gets to remain living in the longtime family home and who has to move out. When spouses have reached retirement age, it’s possible that they will be living on a fixed income, social security, pensions or some combination of these. It becomes more difficult to sustain two separate households on a fixed income and other arrangements may need to be made. One or both spouses may need to return to work or find alternate sources of income.
Rising healthcare costs later in life may become an issue as well. Due to the longer life expectancy today, there is a great likelihood that a retiree will live 20-30 years after they stop working. It’s important to ensure funds are available for later in life care if at all possible.
In a gray divorce, one or both partners are likely to experience loneliness after separating. If they have spent decades living together and are used to sharing a life and home, it may be stressful at first to get used to this drastic change. Most often, these couples have children that are grown up, living on their own, and perhaps even have children of their own. It may feel like having an empty nest all over again. Making new friends, dating, traveling, exploring new hobbies, enjoying retirement, are all things that can maximize a new quality of life under these circumstances.
When deciding that a gray divorce is best, one may be intimidated by the lifestyle changes that come along with it. If one has spent most of their adult life dedicated to one’s ex it will be difficult, but the benefits often outweigh the challenges. Grown children are no longer the full focus, and there is no pressure to “stay together for the kids” that there once may have been. It is important to find ways to embrace single life. Whatever the reasons for this huge change, it can eventually be a new beginning.