Families going through a divorce have enough to deal with. Our culture’s rampant divorce-shaming aside, there is always the trepidation that comes with such an enormous change. Parents might ultimately decide that their choice is what’s best for one another and any kids involved, but the lingering societally-infused fear that you might die old and alone can persist before finding another partnership — should that even be what either spouse is looking for. But in case you’ve found contentment or independence in remaining single post-divorce, The New York Times is here to hold that dying old and alone narrative over your head — especially for female divorcees.
In a peek into the very high divorce rates of baby boomers (we’re talking a 50% rise in the last 20 years), The Times considers the usual reasons. People are undoubtly living longer, so fewer people are willing to squander their autumn years in an awful marriage. Women are also becoming more financially secure on their own and less reliant on a crappy partner. And also, there is less stigma for divorce now than there was say 30 or so years ago. So with kids perhaps out of the house and a good two decades or so to relish, these boomers are signing those divorce papers. And this is reportedly what is in store for them:
The elderly, who have traditionally relied on spouses for their care, will increasingly struggle to fend for themselves. And federal and local governments will have to shoulder much of the cost of their care. Unmarried baby boomers are five times more likely to live in poverty than their married counterparts, statistics show. They are also three times as likely to receive food stamps, public assistance or disability payments.
“We can’t just say that older people don’t get divorced or that middle-aged people won’t grow old alone,” said Dr. Brown, who analyzed the census data with I-Fen Lin, an associate professor of sociology at Bowling Green State. The research was published online in The Gerontologist. “Now we actually need to pay attention to it, not only to the factors that precipitate it, but also to the consequences,” Dr. Brown said.
So, old and alone right? Coupled with, of course, guilt at your “circumstances.” Shame, shame, shame.
The piece then goes on to profile three recently divorced female boomers who have found time for all sorts of personal pursuits like yoga, hiking, more time with friends. But according to the The Times, enjoyment of your free time won’t nix the fact that you’re going to die old and alone, ladies. Emphasis on the ladies! Because the one dude The Times managed to track down for this story started up a new business following his divorce, moved in with a new lady friend, and found “joy”:
Robert Dellaert, 55, who moved to Florida from California to be closer to his mother after he and his wife split, started a seaplane tourism business once he got used to life on his own. He also met and moved in with his current girlfriend…“Making a new start really gave me a lot of joy,” he said.
The other people who were profiled were all female divorcees who although enjoy their free time are bemoaning their untimely end in poverty. Cue the old maid violins:
Heidi Williams, 51, who was supported by disability checks and her husband’s salary, had to find a part-time job after she was divorced last year. She has a genetic form of emphysema, which she discovered in her 40s, and relies on an oxygen concentrator to get through the day….
Laura Stillman, 62, a sales manager at a television station in Raleigh, N.C., who was recently divorced after 27 years of marriage, fills her free time with yoga, tennis, swimming and socializing with friends. She has also gone out on a few dates. But she still misses the companionship of her marriage and worries that she may have to hire a nurse someday if she falls ill, since she no longer has a husband to count on….
Ms. [Katie] Dunn said she tries not to think too hard about retirement or getting old. She runs a campground from April through October and supplements her income by coaching lacrosse at a local high school. She has no health insurance and no pension to rely on. She lives in an 18th-century farmhouse she inherited from her father, and it needs repairs that she cannot afford. She said she will probably have to sell some land that she owns to make ends meet when she is too old or too infirm to work….
So the takeaway here ladies is don’t get too excited about your three times a week Pilates classes or hiking trails or whatever other “nonsense” you’re filling your time with because without a partner you’re going to die old and alone — unless you’re a dude and than you can shack up with someone new and start a new business and create “a new start.”