Although the divorce rate in the U.S. is on the decline, among those 50 and older, the rate has doubled since 1990, based on data from the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green University.[i] This study revealed that one of out of every four people going through a divorce is 50 or older, and more than half of these divorces are couples that have been married for more than 20 years.[ii] Gray divorce is the term used to refer to the these later-in-life divorces.
While divorce can be difficult at any age, it’s especially challenging for people over 50, with emotional, financial and health implications, especially for women.
Norma Perez, PhD, is a psychologist in Lakeway, a suburb of Austin, TX, whose practice includes divorce support for seniors. She attributes the rise in divorce rate among seniors to both the shift in the attitudes toward divorce as well as the rise in women’s empowerment. “There’s no longer the stigma attached to divorce, and women are recognizing that they have a voice,” said Perez. “They are more confident of their ability to live independently and design a life that’s better for them.”[iii]
Finding a new life at senior living communities
“Post-divorce, it’s both a matter of grieving the loss of the life they had, and how to rebuild a new life,” said Perez. “Women are afraid of losing their friends as a result of the divorce.” But, she says, senior living communities offer a solution. “One of the aspects I most like about senior living communities is that they provide an instant social network of peers with generationally similar life experiences. There’s also the opportunity to diversify your interests. Active adult communities make it easier to broaden your horizons, and meet new people through organized activities, and groups for tennis, cards or crafting.”
Choosing a rental community can be a smart financial decision for a gray divorcee. By selling her home, she can free up the equity, giving her more financial freedom, and making it easier to control expenses. Mortgage payments, property taxes, and homeowners insurance are all eliminated, along with the expense of maintaining of a larger home.
Senior rental housing also gives her the flexibility to move closer to adult children, or to try out a different city to begin this new phase of life.
From an emotional standpoint, leaving behind the family home to begin anew can be very freeing. “It’s an opportunity for a fresh start in a vibrant, engaging community designed for successful aging in place,” said Tod Petty, executive vice president of Lloyd Jones Senior Living. “Our AVIVA-branded rental communities offer a built-in network of friends, social activities and wellness services.”
Seniors who divorce often find themselves without the support system they had counted on: a spouse to care for them in their old age, and a circle of friends that they had as a married couple. One of the biggest health concerns of gray divorce is isolation, which many studies have linked to a greater risk for higher levels of depression, higher blood pressure, weight gain and chronic diseases.[iv]
So, a very important benefit of senior-living rental communities is the camaraderie of peers, and a fun, active social environment with planned activities—helping to avoid the isolation that often comes with gray divorce.
Petty adds, “We’ve designed our AVIVA communities to encourage engagement. The clubhouse is the social hub of the community, which includes a resort-style pool, fitness center, bistro, multipurpose rooms for activities, and social lounges. Plus, healthcare services are available if they are ever needed.”
For those going through a divorce later in life, creating a strong foundation and clear expectations about the future is the first step to reinventing oneself, and active adult communities can be just the place to begin anew.
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