For ‘silver separators’, it's never too late to pack up and start again

A rise in divorce rates for elderly couples could make the world a happier place

Share

We all know that marriage is a great institution, but as Groucho Marx said, “Who’d want to live in an institution?” Marriage is a subject that affects the vast majority of us. Your parents probably had one; you may have one – or (like me) have had several; and you expect your children to go that way too.

But the latest attack on the venerable state has come from an unusual quarter. Men and women over 60 are splitting up at a much higher rate than ever before: from 1991 to 2011 divorces by women over 60 went up 81 per cent; for men the figure was 73 per cent.

These “silver separators” as they’ve been dubbed by the Office for National Statistics, are the fastest growing divorce group in the UK right now. For younger couples the trend is reversing. The ONS puts it down to the de-stigmatisation of divorce plus women’s increased economic power. But I think you can also blame the baby boomer mentality: like their spiritual guru, Mick Jagger, they’re never going to grow old.

You can’t open some papers without being hit with another story about the increase in life expectancy – if you eat no fat, salt, carbs, sugar, run around like a Jack Russell, and have sex at least once a day. Sign up to pursue this kind of super-youth and you may also prefer  to have a genuinely youthful partner at your side, rather than the drone you’ve limped along with up to now. Time to phone the divorce lawyer.

Retirement is often the instigator for this radical act. Suddenly, instead of the busy couple meeting only for breakfast and dinner, they are face to face all day long with nothing much to do with themselves. I didn’t know I would be asked to write this piece when I (not quite in the target group) smiled wryly at a cartoon in this week’s New Yorker: seated man asks an arms-folded woman “When exactly did all the stuff you love about me become all the stuff you hate about me?”

While many studies show that the overall the rates of happiness increase for married couples once their children have left home, for those who were “staying together for the children’s sake” the very reason for the marriage’s continued existence has evaporated.

If they never got along terribly well – lots of fights or conversely, contemptuous silence – the world will be a much happier place by their “silver separation” rather than hanging in for the  silver wedding anniversary.

But, a warning: not everyone will agree. In most cases, children want their parents to stay together. Just because they’ve grown up doesn’t take away from that child-like feeling of wanting their family to be united under one roof.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star