THE BLOG

Have the Baby Boomers Become the Silver Splitters?

14/03/2014 11:08 GMT | Updated 13/05/2014 10:59 BST

As fewer married people are reaching their silver wedding anniversary, media focus on 'silver splitters' has brought the baby boomer generation back into the spotlight.

Although overall divorce rates are falling in the UK, the divorce rate amongst the over 60s has steadily increased. There were 118,000 divorces in 2011, of which over 15,000 consisted of couples aged 60 or older.

This trend is reflected in the lives of the rich and famous, with many older celebrities divorcing. Following the likes of Ronnie Wood and Bill Nighy (who have both divorced later on in life after lengthy marriages), actor John Cleese split from his wife Alyce Faye Eichelberger after 16 years together. He was 70 when they divorced.

Those born in the baby boom period after the Second World War are recognised as one of the wealthiest generations in the UK due to comparative high incomes/low house prices. Typically, they have benefited from joint assets, such as property, savings, etc. So, why are so many deciding to divorce after achieving such success in family and wealth?

Stresses and strains

Retirement is a primary culprit of silver splitting as it is a trigger to major life changes in a seemingly short space of time. Retirement can be extremely challenging for couples as they come to terms with having increased time on their hands and fewer responsibilities. It is all too easy for working couples to sweep underlying problems in their marriage under the carpet by hiding behind their busy lives, full-time careers or children, but retirement offers no cover for this.

Empty-nest syndrome can similarly affect couples. The feelings of loss and sadness that parents can feel when their children leave home for school, university or marriage, can be very severe. This can cause an overall feeling of dissatisfaction with a marriage when a parent realises it will just be the two of them from now on.

The fresh start

Silver splitting may sound rather doom and gloom, however many people make the decision to divorce in their 60s as they are not willing to 'put up' with a failing marriage and want to start a new chapter. With divorce being less of a taboo than in the 1960s and 1970s, and with people now living longer, divorce can offer some - at this stage of their lives - a fresh and real prospect of happiness.

In some ways, divorcing at a later stage in life can be more straightforward as there will probably be no child arrangements or maintenance to decide on, for example. Financial stability can also mean that couples feel freer to make the decision to split than they would have done in the early years of marriage.

The challenges

Divorcing later in life can bring its own challenges however, the most prominent of which is adult children. Older children are notoriously difficult at coping with their parents' divorce and have earned their own term in family law of 'ACODs' ('adult children of divorce').

Adult children will often become involved in their parents' divorce by taking sides or trying to dictate the terms of the settlement, which can cause further complications and upset. Adult children should be discouraged from such behaviour; the courts will view them as adults and will, therefore, not take their needs or wants into consideration when deciding the settlement.

The silver lining...

A rise in divorce rates for the over 60s may seem a negative statistic, but the reasoning behind it is hope. Silver splitters are increasingly leaving long-term marriages and a life that has been built together over decades, which is no fleeting decision. They are no longer willing to settle for loveless or failed marriages when they are aware that they will live longer than previous generations so they are hoping for better.