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The growing trend of divorce among older adults

Older adults in Illinois may be more likely to divorce than the same age group was in 1990, and the risk may be even higher if the marriage is not the first or if it has not lasted very long. Compared to that year, the nationwide divorce rate for people who are 50 or older is now twice as high, and it is three times as high for those who are at least 65 years of age.

Researchers have wondered if life transitions at this stage, such as retiring or children leaving home, may contribute stress to marriages and lead to divorce, but studies refute this. In fact, there appears to be no correlation between these life events and divorce at an older age. For older adults, the main impetus seems to be unhappiness with the marriage just as it is for other age groups.

However, divorce in this age group can come at both emotional and financial costs if the marriage has been a long one. Adult children and other family members may be distressed by the split, and the social ties of older adults could be weakened significantly. One study found it costs a person 65 and older nearly 80 percent as much to live alone as it costs two people living together. The financial burden falls heavily on women with divorced women 65 and older 80 percent more likely to experience poverty compared to men in that demographic.

People might be able to mitigate some of these effects when they divide property during the divorce, and a lower-earning spouse might be able to get alimony as well. Instead of going to litigation, which is a more adversarial process, couples might work together to negotiate an agreement that leaves them both with financial resources for retirement.