The Surprising Surge of the “Silver Singles”
Published on 02 May, 2017 | Alice Couriel
In the relatively recent past, to the younger generation, anybody over the age of 50 was considered rather old or, to use one colloquialism, “getting on”.
However, whereas they might commonly have been considered to be heading for their dotage, successive studies have shown that they have, in fact, been “getting on” with their lives in a myriad of different ways.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has made clear that the perception of younger generations being responsible for any discernible change in the nature of how households in England and Wales are formed and then maintained – or not – is somewhat wide of the mark.
Take divorce, for instance, which has witnessed the rise of the so-called ‘silver splitters’, individuals who, for a number of reasons, choose to exit marriages when in their fifties, sixties and even older (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/divorce/bulletins/divorcesinenglandandwales/2014).
Meanwhile, the latest marriage figures show that fewer couples across all age groups are choosing to tie the knot with the exception of men and women of pension age. The ONS revealed in March that for those aged 65 and over, there had been increases of 56 per cent and 41 per cent respectively over the course of only five years (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/marriagecohabitationandcivilpartnerships/bulletins/marriagesinenglandandwalesprovisional/2014#at-what-age-are-couples-getting-married).
Now fresh research has laid bare another group, one which is neither forging or leaving relationships but avoiding them altogether.
The Sunday Telegraph has reported that a marked rise in the number of single men and women in their forties, fifties and sixties (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/30/rise-silver-singles-hike-divorce-rates-70s-put-marriage/).
Women in their fifties seem to be among those most likely to remain living alone. The figures for them are up 150 per cent in just 13 years.
As I’ve been telling the ‘paper’s Social Affairs Correspondent, Olivia Rudgard, I believe that the situation is, at least in part, due not to their being scared of making a commitment but an aversion to experiencing for themselves the kind of trauma which divorce has wrought on friends and family.
One thing which is a regular theme among the divorces which myself and my colleagues at Hall Brown deal with is the impact on men and women of marital collapses amongst their social circle.
Despite the vast majority of divorces being resolved amicably, hearing of less pleasant break-ups from those close to you or through news media can have something of a deterrent effect.
The figures suggest that such circumstances prompt a growing number of people to stay on their own rather than risk having their emotional and financial stability thrown into turmoil.
Even those who decide to proceed are not completely immune to such anxieties. Some couples, being aware that more than 40 per cent of marriages now end in divorce, attempt to provide themselves with some security by entering into pre-nuptial agreements which allow for a more reasoned, structured parting should their relationships not last the distance.