Older woman with arms held open standing by the ocean 

When we think of baby boomers living alone, we often think of widows and widowers or those who have never partnered up. Nearly 16 million people aged 65 and older in the US lived solo in 2022, three times as many who lived alone in that age group in the 1960s. And as Baby Boomers age, that number is expected to grow even more, raising big questions about the country’s future. Projections from Harvard University’s Joint Study of Housing predict over the number of households headed by folks over 75 will soar to over 14 million by 2038.

Yet, there is a whole new crew of aging adults that we can call Silver Splitters. Those aging adults who after years of marriage choose to go their own way and find themselves discovering new ways of being. Researchers Susan L Brown and Wendy Manning, co-directors of The National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green University, started studying “gray divorces” after Al and Tipper Gore split. Their research findings reveal that “gray divorces” are on the rise and have the capability of a later day reinvention. 

As someone who researched widows and widowers I was heartened by these findings. While each situation is different, they do have similarities. Widowhood and divorce may bring a vicissitude of emotions and financial rearranging, however they also leave the elders with the potential to discover new freedoms, to engage in new behaviors, and to try new things.  Not all marriages are bright, nor are all divorces destructive. Many people feel that life is too precious to spend with the wrong person and are curious about how they could spend the rest of their life on their own or with a new partner. The researcher Myres prefers the term, silver splitters because it alludes to the silver lining of starting fresh, of which I wholeheartedly endorse.

Widowhood and divorce can be a double edge sword. Both situations leave people grieving their losses and they must work through the pain of letting go. Loneliness is quite common amongst these groups. As clinicians we must let these adults work through their pain and acknowledge their loses.

On that note,  I invite you to read The Daily Good on the Radical Act of Letting Things Hurt and to take the time and check out this incredible YouTube video (below) on experiencing loss, pain and grief.

As a woman, a widow, married woman, mother, grandmother, clinician, coach, and interventionist I love working with folks of a certain age. Life changes as we age: physically, mentally, financially, spiritually, etc, yet our ability to find meaning and joy in the new landscape is always present. Call me if you have questions. I always pick up my phone and would be happy to hear your story.