essays

Going It Alone

loners teeIt’s official. More boomers than ever have made the decision to go it alone. Demographers at Bowling Green State University analyzed census data and found that the divorce rate for boomers over the last 20 years has increased by more than 50 percent. At the same time, more boomers are remaining single. Around one third of adults ages 46 through 64 were divorced, separated or had never been married in 2010, while back in 1970, it was only 13 percent.

Why should you care? Most elderly persons depend on their spouses for care, but with so many boomers opting to go it alone, federal and local goverment may very well have to pick up the slack. If you are an unmarried boomer, you are five times more likely to live in poverty than married boomers, and three times more likely to be receiving public assistance of some kind (foodstamps, disability, etc.).

The increased numbers of older, unmarried boomers is driven by a number of factors. We’re living longer and that means some boomers are faced with remaining longer in an unhappy marriage. Women have become more financially independent and therefore more willing to live on their own. And the stigma of divorce is almost extinct, so there is less social pressure to marry or stay married.

empty rocking chairMany of these unattached boomers say they experience a sense of liberation when they decide to go it alone. It’s a chance to start over and remake their lives, even if it comes with a high degree of risk and uncertainty. They often find new partners to live with, but marriage is not in the offing. The number of unmarried adults ages 50 to 64 living together but not married is on the rise when compared with 2000.

The new found freedom does come at a price. Battered by the recession, these unattached boomers may not have children or financial cushions to fall back on, which means there could be financial hardships in their future.

For now, at least, the sense of liberation and independence outweighs the risk. How many of us want to spend today worrying about tomorrow?

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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