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1 in 4 senior citizens are divorcing as new trend sweeps nation, destroying families
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Gray divorce is on the rise. A survey by Pew Research suggests the surprising reasons why grandma and grandpa are choosing to separate for good.
As many as 1-4 seniors may choose to divorce, if trends hold.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) -- There's an old joke that a retired couple who lament the absence of their children for the holidays. The father calls each child and reports he is divorcing their mother. One by one, the children order their father to stay put, and do nothing as they book flights to come home and intervene. After making the rounds, the father triumphantly announces to their mother, "the kids are all coming for the holiday, and they're paying their own airfare."
The joke works because nobody assumes our elderly parents could ever divorce. This troubling trend is developing according to all metrics. A greater number of senior couples are splitting up, shocking both children and experts. Unlike the story above, the Pew results are not a joke.
Gray divorce, as it has been dubbed for people age 50 and older, has doubled in the past 25 years. Divorce is on the decline for younger couples, but for those 40 and above it is on the rise. And for those over 50, Pew reports a 109 percent increase from 1990.
To provide firm perspective, 1 in 4 seniors are now likely to divorce after the age of 50.
These numbers are disturbing because gray divorce is especially traumatic. Not only are children and grandchildren caught up in the politics inspired by divorce, but the former spouses face new challenges they may not have assumed. Financial security collapses. It's harder to have a next-of-kin on hand. Job loss or the need to reenter the job market often follows. For many people, they face difficulty reentering the job market at their former salary level. Some are compelled to accept low wage work.
Social satisfaction drops. Many parents end up feeling alienated from branches of the family they once took for granted.
In all, gray divorce means a tougher life with less wealth, more uncertainty, diminished satisfaction, and shorter lifespan. So why are many more seniors choosing this option?
There are no clear reasons yet, but there are some good hunches. Longevity and better health are resulting in people who feel better longer. With children out of the house and on to careers, domestic roles change. Caretakers of children are often pressured to find work. If they don't work, they can be seen as lazy or as leeching off a working spouse. They can generate expenses if they develop hobbies or social activities that don't generate a return for the household.
Then there is the attraction of younger mates, something that Viagra, hair dye, and other drugs and procedures have made possible. Add cultural influences that break down traditional barriers, and extramarital affairs that cross generational lines become more ubiquitous. Virtually all such relationships are doomed, but that does not stop people from trying and ruining that they have.
The long-term impacts are significant for society as a whole. As boomers retire, they will place greater strains on social safety nets without the aid of a spouse's benefits or assistance. Lonely seniors become depressed and can react in a variety of ways. They can commit suicide, allow their health to fail, a few even commit crimes.
Divorce has always been a difficult, traumatic event. It always brings tremendous destruction. This is why divorce is condemned by the world's moral authorities, including the Catholic Church. The only basis for divorce, or rather separation, are abuse and infidelity. And even in these cases, reconciliation is greatly preferred. Without change to the moral fabric of our society, the golden years for many may turn out to be an empty promise at best, and at worst, a curse.
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