An interesting, and some say alarming, trend among the aging population is divorce. The term coined for it is “Gray Divorce.” It describes divorce after many years of marriage, and the statistics are quite surprising. According to Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin, sociologists at Bowling Green State University in an article by the Washington Post, more than half of divorces are to people over age 50 and one in ten are over age 65.
This presents interesting long term implications for health care because people without established social patterns often are less healthy. And, divorced couples are also often less wealthy. The article asks, “As they age and experience health declines, who’s going to take care of them? Especially if they’re not able to afford the level of care that others with more economic resources have?”
The reasons for this trend are not clear and it isn’t limited to the USA. Whether it is simply a facet of the Baby Boomers will remain to be seen over the next generations. Brown also posits that it might be longevity related saying “…divorce can be the collateral damage from increased life spans.”
Gerontologist Karl Pillemer, author of “30 Lessons for Loving: Advice From the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships and Marriage,” surveyed more than 700 women and men age 65 and older. He finds that a willingness to share new interests in midlife and beyond is critical. And, he argues in a WSJ article (here) that embracing your spouses interests could make a difference.
One thing is for certain … unless there is a change in how we relate to one another as we age, the trend will be with us for a while, and it will cause changes to health care, estate planning, the legal system, taxes, and spirituality.