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1 July 2013

Elderly couples 'need more relationship guidance'

Elderly people in the UK should be offered more relationship support to help them cope with older age, the BBC reports the charity Relate as saying.

Relationships play a critical role in dealing with the pressures of old age, but can fracture if they are not nurtured, costing the state more money.

Relate calls for a coherent government strategy and for support and counselling to be prescribed by GPs.

In a report, the charity calls for a new post of minister for ageing.

The report, jointly published with the New Philanthropy Capital, entitled Who Will Love Me When I'm 64?, suggests there are changes in the nature of relationships of elderly couples today compared with the previous generation.

Divorce rates of men and women over 60 increased between 1991 and 2011, it notes, whereas those of younger couples have fallen in the past 10 years.

There has been debate about ‘silver divorce’, but the report said it was not clear if those divorcing tended to be the recently married or whether long-term partnerships were breaking down.

It pointed out that baby boomers, defined as those born between 1946 and 1964 - today's pensioners - had ‘married young and in great numbers’. But ‘they were far more likely to divorce than their parents’, it said.

It added: ‘Alongside these rising divorce rates, the latter half of the 20th Century saw an increase in cohabitation and remarriage, and the formation of stepfamilies and extended families.

‘In general, the couple and family relationships of baby boomers have been characterised by greater fluidity than those of their parents' generation.’

And the greater tendency for relationship breakdown matters because, the report says, good-quality relationships are key to success and well-being in older age.

Read more on this story here.