Since the 1990s, researchers have investigated the rise in divorce rates in couples older than 50 years of age. Those studying it often position the trend against younger age groups that have seen divorce rates decline over the same period. Termed “gray divorce,” researchers at Bowling Green State University first identified the pattern in the early 2010s. In short, they noticed that couples married for several decades were now choosing to seek independent futures.
But why was this happening? And why is it continuing to happen?
While every situation is unique, these divorces seemed to contain numerous common contributing factors, including:
- Changing societal pressures: Historically, a marriage was seen as an all-in proposition. The union was literally “til death do us part.” As time went on, however, each generation seemed to see an increase of “children of divorce.” As those children aged and got married, they understood the reality of divorce. Over time, the societal norms have shifted. Recognizing a failing marriage and seeking to start anew is a viable option and the community no longer ostracized the divorced couple for their decision.
- Longer lifespans: With increases in medical technology, medicine and health awareness, individuals are living productive lives much longer than ever before. That said, a healthy, happy individual has more time to realize the marriage isn’t working. In short, remaining unhappy for another two- or three-decades past retirement is not an option.
- Easily find shared interests: The advent of the internet has changed the world. Now, people can seek individuals across the planet who share the same interests as them and the same desires for the future. In the past, the prospect of divorce was frightening because older individuals worried they’d never meet another soul mate again. Now, they can quickly become involved in shared interest groups anywhere in the world.
For these reasons, and many others, older adults have decided to end their marriages in record numbers. Once the children are grown and retirement has set in, more and more individuals are keen to start an entirely new phase of their lives. Often, this includes the end of one relationship and the start of a new one.