The continued rise of ‘silver splitters’
The International Longevity Centre (ILC), a UK body which develops policy on increasing life spans, ageing and population change, has found that between 1990 and 2012 the number of men and women over 60 divorcing has risen by 85 per cent and the rate continues to rise.
Based on current rates the ILC estimates that the number of older people going through a divorce will grow from 15,700 in 2012 to more than 22,000 by 2037 – a rise of 41 per cent and by that year 10 per cent of divorces will involve one or more partner over 60.
The study notes that divorce rates among the general population have been declining – partly as a result of a general decline in the marriage rate as more people cohabit and have children without marrying.
A number of factors are at work causing the over 60s increase. One reason is that people now tend to marry later in life making them more exposed to the risk of marital failure in their later years. Another factor has been the continuing rise in female employment – financial independence means women do not have to rely on a spouse for income.
A statistical feature is that with a small chance of divorce during each year of marriage, longer lives mean more marriages are ending with divorce as opposed to the death of a spouse. Changes in social attitudes to divorce are also having an impact.
Relate, the relationship counselling service, has also noted the trend and published a report on the trend entitled ‘Who will love me when I’m 64?’ and is calling for the government to appoint a minister for ageing society.
Relate says that as couple get older, men are more likely to file for and be granted divorce. The average length of a marriage for men getting divorced over 60 is 27.4 years with just 14 per cent having been married for less than a decade. For women in the same age group the average length of marriage was almost 32 years.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics released in June show a parallel trend, however. Marriages among older people are also rising faster than for other age groups – up by 6.9 per cent for women aged 55-59 and by 6.5 per cent for men aged 60 and over.