In the last twenty years, the divorce rate for baby boomers has doubled. As the boomer generation hits age 50, many seem to be ending their marriages and getting divorced. The baby boomer generation, which changed cultures and redefined traditional values in society, including the institution of marriage, is now setting a new trend by getting divorced later in life.
Ironically, the divorce rate for the rest of the country is down significantly while the boomer generation’s has soared. The New York Times recently reported that the nation’s divorce rate has dropped to 40 percent while the boomer rate has “surged 50 percent” in the last 20 years.
In the late 1960’s and early 70s, the first wave of baby boomers flooded higher education institutions and the job market, but not the institution of marriage. Many in the ‘free love’ boomer generation viewed marriage as too traditional. The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 87 percent of baby boomers eventually married but 45 percent have been divorced at least once.
Today, baby boomers are changing the culture of divorce as they enter their 50s. A Pew Research study on social and demographic trends found that '66 percent of baby boomers say divorce is preferable to staying in an unhappy marriage.' Today divorces are accepted and easier to obtain and societal attitudes on unhappy marriages have evolved so, to many boomers, marriage is no longer a lifetime commitment.
But why is the baby boomer divorce rate spiraling? While the reasons are as individualistic as boomers themselves, their desire to stay young, fit and active and have a fulfilling and quality lifestyle all come into play. Boomers are now approaching retirement, their children are gone and with a life expectancy into their 80s, they want to be happy. If their marriage does not live up to that expectation, they want out.
Many women baby boomers now have satisfying careers, are financially independent and have no problem being single again. So if they are unhappy in their marriage, they have the means to leave.
But there is a downside to the high boomer divorce rate. A number boomers will be lonely and will struggle with financial and health issues. Traditionally, spouses have cared for one another when illnesses strike in later years, but divorced boomers will have to go it alone.
It could also have serious consequences on their retirement savings and lifestyle. The pool of money that was going to fund retirement for a couple will now be split in half, reports USA Today and ‘must now fund retirement for two people living separately. This costs a lot more and means people must either temper those retirement lifestyle expectations or delay retirement altogether.’
But boomers are likely to pursue divorce if they are in an unhappy marriage. This generation will again change a societal more as it pursues its quest to stay young, socially active and physically fit, with a happy and quality lifestyle.