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Gray Divorce: Why Some Grandparents Are Calling It Quits

Alicia P., 66, an artist, has been married to her physician husband, Chet, 68, for 42 years. The couple had long had problems with intimacy, and Alicia complained that Chet was so involved with his medical research that family came a distant second. As long as the kids were at home, Alicia thought about divorce from time to time, but believed the couple had to stay together “for the kids.”

Now that the kids are out of college and starting families of their own, Alicia has asked Chet for a divorce. Her parents lived into their 90s, Alicia is in good health, and the idea of spending another 25 years in her unsatisfying marriage now is not appealing.

She’s not alone. Many people over 55 today are opting for the possibility of a more satisfying life—and are becoming the face of “Gray Divorce.”

Until recently it was widely assumed that marriages of what we call “late-adult” people (55 to 80 plus) dissolved only when one partner died. That assumption is wrong. Even as overall divorce rates have begun to decline, the divorce rate among older Americans has more than doubled since 1990. A half-century ago, only 2.8 percent of Americans over 50 were divorced. Today, that number is over 15 percent with approximately 1 in every 4 divorces occurring among couples over 50.

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