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Will social lives suffer as divorce rate for over-50s soars?

One in four people who are divorced is over the age of 50.

Gulp.

That's the shocking finding researched by Bowling Green State University sociologists, and the subject of this month's cover story.

That's some 643,000 people in the United States, and the number is expected to hit more than 828,000 in 20 years as this large segment of the population ages.

The researchers, Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin, worry about the effect this is going to have on social welfare programs; I worry about what this is going to do to socialization.

I am one of the statistics. It happened in 2010, two months before what would have been my 33rd wedding anniversary. Let's just say it wasn't for the usual reasons. I was blindsided, actually, thrust into a role I never thought I'd be in.

Truth be told, we had a great marriage. We grew up together. He didn't do things that irritated me or I didn't even know they irritated me because he was my husband and we picked our battles to keep the union not only harmonious but also happy.

But, alas, it came to an end and even though he was a really good companion, there are some things I would want in a future mate that he didn't give me.

That's where the trouble begins, and what worries me is that some will be looking for perfection in another person. At our age, we can't really get a fixer-upper. We no longer have the time, energy or desire to help anyone else get his or her act together like we did when we were in our 20s.

But we can be optimistic. With so many eligible people out there, how hard can it be? Let's draw a parallel to shopping for a car after one you have driven for a very long time is no longer running.

When I bought my first car, I was just happy to have wheels. When I married my husband, I was just happy to have someone who loved love me back. Then the car, and the marriage, stopped.

A second time around, I'm much more picky. I'll be looking for a new or used car with an improved sound system, easier steering, smoother ride. You get the idea.

If I had to guess, I'd say about 70 percent of the 50 and older dating pool is looking for the same apparition, that perfect person with whom to spend the rest of their lives. The other 30 percent figure they're done with marriage. Commitment? Dealing with another person 24/7? Caring about another person as much as they care about themselves? No way. Too much work. So they're just out there looking for an occasional companion.

As I said, I worry about what this increasing divorce rate among those 50 and older is going to do to socialization. What will the world be like when there are nearly a million people who just might be floating alone during the last, and what are supposed to be the best, years of their lives?

Because at least some of them lost their anchors.

Patti Ewald can be reached at pewald@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8746.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: One in four people who are divorced is over the age of 50.

Will social lives suffer as divorce rate for over-50s soars? 07/22/13 [Last modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 1:04pm]

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