Famous and infamous, great and not so great. Divorce quotes abound…
There’s Agatha Christie (1890-1976)’s “I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming... suddenly you find - at the age of 50, say - that a whole new life has opened before you.” O.K.
And the cracks typified by Jack Benny (1894-1974)’s “My wife Mary [Livingston] and I have been married for forty-seven years and not once have we had an argument serious enough to consider divorce; murder, yes, but divorce, never.” Chuckle chuckle.
The number of "gray divorces" is growing. (“Graying prisons” is another column.)
A quarter of all divorces are by couples wed twenty years or more. They often end more with a whimper than a bang as couples break-up, completely sever, dissociate, disunite, and split.
While studies have determined that the overall divorce rate has held steady or declined since the 1980s, not so for those over age fifty. More than one in four people who divorce today are over age fifty. Only 23.4 percent of people over age seventy have been divorced, but that number jumps to 35.7 percent for people in their fifties. The National Center for Family & Marriage Research reports that the divorce rate for boomers and older couples has more than doubled over the past three decades and is expected to increase. Approximately half of those who divorce are in short-term remarriages.
There’s less stigma than twenty years ago. A 2004 AARP study found that 66 percent of divorce filings made by wives. Women, more or less empowered, are increasingly the ones filing for divorce. Midlife women are sometimes in a better financial situation than their mothers and grandmothers were. In previous generations they might have stayed in a marriage because of possible financial, religious or social repercussions.
While women continue to be employed for wages outside the home, not-young women who have gone through a divorce are much less eager to get remarried than are men, according to Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage: A History; From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage. As a result, people over age fifty are the fastest-growing group of cohabitants. "They frequently partner up, but they don't want to complicate their lives… Your chance of being able to remarry at an older age is better than ever, but a lot of them just don't want to make that commitment."
In the 1980s, the Older Women’s League published “The disillusionment of divorce for older women,” “Divorce and older women,” and Frances Leonard’s “Divorce and older women.” OWL was particularly concerned about the displaced homemaker, the term coined by Trish Sommers in 1975 to describe the “middle-aged woman forcibly exiled” from her role as wife and mother and struggling to find a place in the job market. Later, it was broadened to encompass women in their middle years, generally 35-64, who have been deprived of their traditional role by the loss of spouse through separation, divorce, abandonment, or death. There are also many who have been unmarried, unpaid homemakers for parents, in-laws and other women.
In the 1980s, scholars were researching and writing dissertations like Garry Lynn Yeager’s Developing a Manual for Ministering with a Congregation Having Widowed, Separated or Divorced Persons; Karen Louise Porter’s The Scheduling of Life Course Events, Economic Adaptations, and Marital History: An Analysis of Economic Survival After Separation and Divorce for a Cohort of Midlife Women; and Andrea Stuart Taylor’s Divorce in Late Life; Case Studies of Urban Women. The hero of Marian Engle’s 1981 novel, The Year of the Child, was middle-aged Harriet, a divorced writer working to support a houseful of her and others’ children. Elderly Mrs. Saxe moved into Lunatic Villas, the name of Harriet’s Toronto house. In Ursula Perrin’s 1983 novel, Old Devotions, the lives of two, now middle-aged former college roommates, have differed. Isabel, the divorced storyteller, was considered a “failure,” while Morgan was a suburban housewife.
Robert N Butler, MD (1927-2010) coined the now widely used term, “ageism,” to describe discrimination against the elderly. He defended as healthy the way many old people slip into memories healthy, and is credited with the concept known as "life review" a therapeutic device people can use to reflect on their lives. Helen R. Weingarten related divorce and life review in Twenty-five Years of Life Review: Theoretical and Practical Considerations (1989). After Marriage Ends: Economic Consequences for Midlife Women, by Leslie A Morgan, was published by Sage in 1991, in cooperation with the National Council on Family Relations.
Sex is a significant predictor of happiness among married seniors. The more often older married individuals engage in sexual activity, the more likely they are to be happy with both their lives and marriages, according to research presented in 2011 at the Gerontological Society of America's Annual Scientific Meeting. This finding is based on a public opinion poll conducted on a nationally representative sample of non-institutionalized English and Spanish-speaking person 18 years of age or older living in the U.S. Survey responses of the 238 married individuals age 65+ indicate that frequency of sexual activity is a significant predictor of both general and marital happiness. This association remained even after accounting for such factors age, gender, health status, and satisfaction with their financial situation. [American Association for the Advancement of Science, Nov. 20, 2011.]
Seniors own the bulk of California’s wealth in savings, home equity and other property. At this point in your life, you may have more at stake when you change your marital status. Or, you may be a widowed person living on Social Security income alone. If you choose to remarry, be aware of your decision’s potential impact on your finances.
In September 1988, Dolores C. Huerta, then fifty-eight years old, was severely beaten by San Francisco Police officers during a peaceful and lawful protest of the policies/platform of then-candidate for president George H.W. Bush in front of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. The baton-beating caused significant internal injuries, resulting in broken ribs and necessitating removal of her spleen. The beating was caught on videotape and broadcast widely on local television news, including the clear ramming of the butt end of a baton into Huerta's torso by one of the helmeted officers. Later, Huerta won a large judgment against the SFPD and the City of San Francisco, the proceeds of which were used in benefit of farm workers. That was fourteen years ago… At the time, the assault was credited with starting yet another movement to change SFPD crowd control policies, as well as the manner in which officer discipline is handled. Huerta co-founded and serves as First Vice President Emeritus of the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO (UFW), and is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Be sure to confirm. Share by email news of future events that may interest boomers, elders and seniors. Daytime, free or senior-discounted, and Bay Area events preferred. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, Dec. 10. 2-5 PM. PEN Oakland 21st Annual Literary Awards. The ceremony will be followed by a reception and book signings. Free. Rockridge Library, 5366 College Ave., Oakland. 510-597-5017
Monday, Dec. 12. 12 Noon. Senior Center Lecture - J-Sei Center Center - 1710 Carleton Street, Berkeley "Fall Prevention" Speaker: Andrew Teran - Bay Area Vital Link. To place a reservation for the lecture and/or lunch at 11:30 A.M., call 510-883-1106.
Monday, Dec. 12. 7:00 P.M. Swedish Folk Music with Mark and Jennie Walstrom. Their instruments include the Swedish Säckpipa (bagpipe) and Nyckelharpa (key fiddle). Tonight’s music will center on the Swedish winter holidays. Kensington Library, 61Arlington Avenue Free. 510-524-3043.
Tuesday, Dec. 13. 1 P.M. Mastick Book Club members will share a book of their choice. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Free. 510-747-7510. See also January 3.
Wednesday, Dec. 14 6:30-8 P.M. Drop-In Poetry Writing Workshop. Albany Library 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720.
Wednesday, Dec. 14. 6:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Disability. Meets at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Avenue. Check the City online community calendar to verify or call the Center, 510-981-5190.
Thursday, Dec. 15. 10 A.M. Mastick Senior Center’s Annual Holiday Sing-Along.Join Jim Franz and Friends for the Annual Holiday Sing-Along. Enjoy a visit from Santa, refreshments, and the spirit of the season! 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Free. 510-747-7506.
Thursday, Dec. 15. AARP members invite you to join them for their Annual Holiday Luncheon after the Annual Holiday Sing-Along. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Enjoy a catered lunch including turkey and all the trimmings. Per person cost is $15. Reservations are required and can be made by contacting Corky Hastings at 510-653-7678 or Marge Ryan at 523-4148. Consider bringing a small wrapped gift and participate in the gift exchange.
Thursday, Dec. 15. 6-8 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Berkeley Public Library West Branch, 1125 University. 510-981-6270. Also Dec. 22.
Saturday, Dec. 17. 11 A.M. Landlord/Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100.
Saturday, Dec. 17. 12:30 P.M. San Francisco Gray Panthers Holiday Party. 1182 Market, Room 203. 415-552-8800.
Saturday, Dec. 17. 3:30 P.M. The Knitting Hour. Berkeley Public Library West Branch, 1125 University. 510-981-6270.
Monday, Dec. 19. 12:30 – 1:30 P.M. Albany YMCA/Albany Library brown Bag Lunch Speaker’s Forum: Matt Johanson discusses Yosemite Epics: Tales of Adventure from America’s Greatest Playground. At the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720.
Monday, Dec. 19. 7 P.M. Book Club. Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time. Tey is known as the mystery writer for those who don’t like mysteries! Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. Free event. 510-524-3043. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome.
Wednesday, Dec. 21. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging. Meets at South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street. Check the City online community calendar to verify or call the Center, 510-981-5170.
Wednesday, Dec. 21. 7 – 8 P.M. The Adult Evening Book Group will read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Facilitated discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Albany branch of the Alameda County library, 1247 Marin Av. Books are available at the Library. 510-526-3720 x 16.
Thursday, Dec. 22. 12:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center. Birthday Party Celebration. All members celebrating a birthday in December are invited to join us in Dining Room 2 for cake, music, balloons, and good cheer. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510.
Tuesday, Dec. 22. 3 P.M. Tea and Cookies. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100.
Wednesday, Dec. 28. 1:30 P.M. East Bay Gray Panthers. 510-548-9696. Meets at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst.
Wednesday, Dec. 28. 1:30 – 2:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Holiday lunch and selection discussion. 510-526-3720 x 16.
Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012. Book Club members will read French Lessons by Ellen Sussman. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Free. 510-747-7510.
Wednesday, Jan. 4. 9 A.M. – 1:30 P.M. AARP Driver Safety Refresher Course specifically designed for motorists age 50+. Taught in one-day. To qualify, you must have taken the standard course within the last 4 years. Preregistration is a must. There is a $12 per person fee for AARP members (AARP membership number required) and $14 per person fee for non-AARP members. Registration is payable by check ONLY made payable to AARP. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510.
Tuesday, Jan. 10. 1 P.M. Sugar Blues or What? Come be inspired, find ways to beat cravings, find specific tools to make healthier choices with Neta O’Leary Sundberg, Certified Health coach-Yoga teacher. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510.
Friday, Jan. 13. 9:30 – 11:30 A.M. Creating Your Personal Learning Network. Learn to use the Internet and tools like Twitter and YouTube Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. Also Feb. 17.
Monday, Jan. 23. 10:30 – 11:30 A.M. Learn to Create a YouTube Video Jeff Cambra, Alameda Currents producer, will share the basics of shooting a good video and how to get it uploaded to YouTube. No equipment or experience needed. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510.
Tueday, Jan. 24. 1 P.M. Doggie Communication 101. Does your dog pull you down the street? Not get enough exercise because you have mobility challenges? Growl or snap? Bark too much? Other annoying or worrisome behaviors? Bring your questions and join dog trainer Ruth Smiler. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510.
Thursday, Jan. 25. 1:30 P.M. Music Appreciation Class. Join William Sturm, Volunteer Instructor. Piano recital and discussion about “The Classical Romantic: Johannes Brahms.” Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510.