Posted on March 5, 2013 · Posted in Blog

Elderly divorce rate doubled in 20 years

(With a story from one of our clients at Kelowna Divorce Mediation Services)

Mediator with 2 people

On July 14, 2012, Hilda Sorensen (fictitious name) of Kelowna, British Columbia, “woke up with a new life.” At 66, she got divorced.

“I thought this would be an age to travel and enjoy our grandchildren but I found myself alone,” she said.

I married with that old promise “till death do us part,” Hilda said, however, “it doesn’t always turn out that way.”

Hilda is just one of a growing list of people who divorce after age 50. Between 1990 – 2010, the divorce rate for this group doubled. This is according to a study out of the U.S. by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University.  The Lead researcher, Susan L. Brown who is a professor with the Department of Sociology says, “In 1990 only 1 in 10 divorces were people 50 and older. Now it’s 1 in 4.”

See Susan Brown’s informatics by clicking HERE.

Susan L Brown_FacultySusan says the increase is because of the increasing numbers of seniors (“in the baby boomer age group”), as well as more women with careers who don’t have to stay in unhappy marriages for the money. And it gets worse because those divorcing who are over 50 years old have an even higher divorce rate if they are in a second marriage. “They have a lot of complications because of blended family challenges, financial and health care decisions,” Susan said. “But they also know they can divorce and that life goes on.”

Regarding the demographics and gray-hair divorce, black people have the highest rates, followed by Hispanics, and then Asians and caucasians. It was found that the more education – the lower the rate, and retirees have the lowest rate. Further, the Bowling Green study predicted that even if the gray-hair divorce rate remains steady, the numbers of divorces will escalate because of the North American aging population.

Ms. Brown said. “We need to look at these people the way we’ve looked at widowhood. Many need help financially. They had fewer kids, and the kids aren’t always nearby, so they more often have to look outside the family for caregiving.”

At Kelowna Divorce Mediation our divorcing clients past 50 years of age have different needs from those of our younger clients. Health insurance and spousal support are often major issues. But the most difficult issue is that the majority of the marital estate is tied up in home equity but the home is worth less than the mortgage.

There is definitely a difference in attitude even amongst the senior age groups. Those who are in their 50s and 60s are ready to get on with their lives, but those in their 70’s and 80’s are hurt and angry. They are being left and they’re going to be alone at a point when they’re vulnerable and they didn’t expect it.

However, there is some good news and it has to do with the changing view of divorce by our society. It used to be that divorcees and their children were tainted. Thank goodness, that stigma is gone!

Even though she’s 66 years old and divorced, Hilda considers herself lucky. “We did some good things along the way. We have great kids and they’ve all done well, and they’re here for me if I need them,” she said. “I don’t have much income but at least I have a part-time job and a house, and I’m healthy. And you know who my biggest support system has become? They are my divorced girlfriends…and my personal faith. So, I’ll be alright long-term.”

You may be interested in reading another article that we wrote regarding elderly divorce. It’s titled, “On Your Own After 50,” and you can find it by clicking HERE.


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We are not expensive lawyers; we are family divorce mediators.  Our boutique divorce mediation firm has become Kelowna’s first choice when dealing with separation and divorce, and beyond. It is possible to reduce stress, time and conflict. Our mediation model educates and empowers our clients, so that when you leave you have a document that will to stand the test of time.

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