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Grey divorce revolution spells change for society

Baby boomers comprise the largest age demographic in the United States today. So when subtle sociological phenomena in this group take shape, they are felt by everyone. Recent trends have begun to indicate that "till death do us part" is not the norm anymore.

Americans over the age of 50 are living longer and are more likely to be divorced than widowed. Social scientists claim this trend will have far-reaching consequences for society. Consider the case of a 58-year-old woman who divorced her husband of 34 years based on irreconcilable differences. In the aftermath of her decision, she described anxiety and confusion in her attempt to reintegrate herself into a world, in which her self-worth had previously been intricately intertwined with her husband and his job. This situation is becoming more and more common compared to 50 years ago.

In the 1960s, less than 3 percent of Americans over the age of 50 was divorced. As we entered the new millennium, that number had risen four-fold. Reports from the census bureau showed divorce and separations in the over-50 group were still rising while they slowed down in the rest of the population. Researchers at Bowling Green University have indicated these trends will have a deep effect on not just the couples involved, but on society as a whole, impacting family and federal resources. One expert in family history has reported some baby boomers are in second or third marriages, underscoring that staying together no matter what no longer seems to be the only option in couples married 25 years or more. This is expected to continue as more and more seniors maintain good health and are unencumbered by children. This is especially true in women, who are the primary instigators of divorce.

Ending a loveless marriage does not have to equal emotional death. After the 58-year-old woman ended her marriage of 34 years, she was able to reestablish her social worth with her adult children and make new friends, as well as try her hand at Internet dating. She is living proof that, following a divorce, everyone deserves to explore intimacy and passion well into their twilight years.

Source: nytimes.com, "Divorce After 50 Grows More Common" Sam Roberts, Sep. 20, 2013

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