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More Divorces Among 55-plus Crowd Divorce rate among adults 50 and older doubled, according to study By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

D

ivorce is graying. A study by the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio found that between 1990 and 2009, the divorce rate among adults 50 and older doubled. About one in four divorces in 2009 were among the same age group. Audrey Berger, a psychotherapist in Rochester, has been in practice for 32 years and has noticed the trend. “More and more people are coming in for these [marital] issues at later ages,” she said. “You can feel it as a practitioner, the shift that’s happening.” She lays the blame among many factors, including greater longevity, better health, feminism, Burger and how boomers view marriage. “The parents of baby boomers were concerned about fulfilling their roles 28

55 PLUS - January / February 2014

in marriage,” Berger said. “Boomers look to marriage for happiness and fulfillment. “Sometimes people wait until their children grow up which is definitely a factor.” Barbara Jean Sergent, 67, of East Irondequoit, has weathered two divorces — her first from an alcoholic husband after 22 years and the second three years ago after 19 years. “There’s a big difference than when a child is young and [when he’s older]. It was less painful for everyone involved,” Sergent said. She and her first husband had one child who was 17 when they split. She had been working, so the divorce didn’t hit her as hard as many women who stay home for decades and then lose their financial support. With her second divorce, she had not been working, so she took a job. Since she had worked before, finding work again was not as difficult as for her peers who had never worked. Emotionally, the divorces took a toll. “It was quite devastating,” Sergent said. “You make plans for the golden years and things you want to have fun

doing. You have to be a survivor and not crumble.” Culturally, divorce has become more commonplace and accepted. Born into the post-World War II to early-60s era, boomers represent a generation that always bucked societal norms. Lifelong marriage is yet another area in which boomers create their own path. “The mores have changed,” Sergent said. “People are living together now, and divorce is more accepted. Me and a lot of my friends didn’t know any gays and lesbians. Now it’s OK.” At midlife, many changes take place in one’s life. The cliché plays out in real life for many couples. “They may realize that they let their relationship lapse as they focused on their careers and work,” said Cindy McCormack, licensed clinical social worker practicing in Rochester. “Now the focus is back on the relationship and they realize it’s not as fulfilling as when they first met.” Physical limitations associated with older age may begin to subtlety manifest. But one also realizes that

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