The Takeaway: Older Americans Rejecting Marriage; Anorexia and Aging

Sociologists Wonder: Who Will Care For Single Seniors? A growing number of older men and women are “opting out” of marriage, the New York Times reports. Since the 1990s, the divorce rate for boomers has climbed more than 50 percent, even as it stabilized among other age groups. Meanwhile, less adults got married in the first place. The result is a surprising number of Americans in their 50s and 60s heading into old age sans spouse.

Most of the reasons for this shift are positive: Boomers have felt less social pressure to marry, or to stay in marriages that aren’t working. Woman are increasingly financially independent. People are living longer.

But we need to pay attention “not only to the factors that precipitate (this shift), but also to the consequences,” said Susan L. Brown, co-director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University. An analysis conducted by Brown and colleagues found that in 2010, about a third of adults ages 46 through 64 were divorced, separated or had never been married. This is up from 13 percent in 1970.

Because the post-boomer generations have far lower marriage rates than their elders, sociologists expect the number of single seniors to rise sharply in coming decades-and the trend could drastically transform our traditional portrait of aging in America. Unmarried older adults lack a partner to rely on for care, and with family caregiving (and retirement savings) down also, governments and social services agencies will have to shoulder an increasing responsibility for senior care. Stats show unmarried boomers are five times more likely to live in poverty as married counterparts, and three times as likely to receive food stamps or disability benefits.

Anorexia and Aging: This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week, and one of the more interesting NEDA stories I’ve seen is about eating disorders in the middle-aged. Folks tend to think about eating disorders as a teen or young adult problem. Dr. Emmett Bishop, of Colorado’s Eating Recovery Center, said data on older adults with eating disorders is scarce. But his center has seen an “upsurge” of older patients.

 The biggest myth is that this group does not have eating disorders,” he said. Although this group has flown under the radar, we are seeing quite a few women in treatment in their 40s, 50s and 60s. We even recently treated an 80-year-old woman.”

Margarita Tartakovsky at PsychCentral points out that “even when it’s recognized that middle-aged women struggle with eating disorders, the talk almost always turns to cultural pressure. While there is increasing pressure for women to stay young and be slim, eating disorders are more complex than the desire for a certain silhouette.”

Friday Quick Hits: 

- More than 9 million American retirees don’t have enough money to cover basic living expenses, according to a new study.

- Many small business owners aren’t prepared for retirement: About a third have no personal or business-sponsored retirement plan and haven’t estimated how much money they need for retirement.

- Grateful Dead 101? Florida Professor Barry Barnes believes the Grateful Dead can teach us a lot about business and personal finance. A new book by the 68-year-old former Deadhead (“Everything I Know About Business I Learned from the Grateful Dead”) explores the ‘innovative lessons’ he earned from the band’s “marketing genius.”

- And the first LGBT senior center in New York City opened Thursday. “It is going to be … a beacon of light all across this country,” said Michael Adams, executive directive of the nonprofit SAGE, which is co-operating the center with the city Department for the Aging.