According to a report in the June 2012 issue of the AARP Bulletin entitled "Life After Divorce" approximately one in three baby boomers will be unmarried during their senior years, sometimes because of death, but often because of divorce.
Reasons Older Couples Divorce
You may have read about two giant turtles at an Austrian zoo that have been inseparable for the past 115 years ... until recently. Now they cannot be left alone in the same cage. She even bit him and took a large chunk out of his shell! If this kind of disharmony can occur in animals after many years, the same can happen with humans. In addition to general irritability with one another, after the children have been raised some couples feel there is no longer a reason for them to stay together. They want to try new things and explore new opportunities. In other cases, working women in unhappy relationships have discovered that they do not have to stay married. They are capable of supporting themselves.
Consequences of a Late Divorce
The consequences of a divorce late in life can be serious. The couple must split their assets, and this can create financial hardship for both the husband and wife. Because they are older, they also have less time to recover financially. The home may be sold, and the equity divided. Neither person may have enough assets to buy another home like the one they shared together.
Women in particular, who often earn less money than men and have a greater life expectancy after retirement, are at a much greater risk of poverty. An extra burden on women, in particular, is that they often end up as caregivers for their own parents or elderly relatives.
However, late divorces can create stressful living situations for men, as well. If the men have not stayed close to their children over the years, they can sometimes end up alone, with no one to take care of them as they age. Currently, according to the AARP article, up to half of the 5.4 million people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease have no identifiable caregiver!
Coping with Gray Divorce
Unlike turtles, humans are coming up with creative solutions to resolve some of the problems that come up when they no longer want to live with their spouse. In some cases, divorced Baby Boomers are intentionally moving in with their elderly parents. This provides them with a home, and enables them to be caregivers for their parents. Other divorced Boomers are taking in boarders, or moving into roommate situations. There are also retirement villages where older singles can own their own separate condos, but have a community of friends who will help them out, when necessary. Low income divorced seniors can apply for senior housing, although there is a waiting list for it in many areas.
As difficult as these transistions can be as people age, many Baby Boomers are finding that they are able to survive and even thrive after a late in life divorce. How things work out for any one individual often depends on how well they have prepared for this possibility.
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