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10 September 2013

Elderly opt to live together rather than get married

A major shift in attitudes toward the idea of “living in sin” among older people has led to a sharp rise in the number of pensioners cohabiting outside of marriage, an official study of census figures reported in The Telegraph suggests.

More than a quarter of a million people over the age of 65 in England and Wales were living unmarried with a partner at the time of the 2011 census – double the number recorded a decade earlier, according to the Office for National Statistics.

It comes despite a high-profile increase in the number of older people getting divorced, the so-called “silver splitter” phenomenon.

The trend towards more cohabitation has contributed to a surprise fall in the proportion of retired people living on their own.

Charities have warned that the ageing population could lead to an “epidemic of loneliness”, compounded by fact that extended families are more widely dispersed than in previous generations.

But the ONS study showed the proportion of people retirement age living on their own has
dropped from 34 per cent to 31 per cent in the last decade.

Longer life expectancy for men in particular – who have begun to narrow the gap on women as a result of healthier lifestyles and workplaces – has led to a decline in the number of widows living on their own.

There are now 2.7 million widows or widowers in England and Wales – 200,000 fewer than 10 years earlier despite a major increase in the elderly population.

The ONS said that his drop might be partly explained by women widowed in the Second World War passing away in the last decade as well as longer life expectancy overall.

But while the proportion of older people who were married rose steadily over the decade between the two censuses the proportion who were divorced doubled.

According to the ONS, this helped drive the increase in people living together unmarried – with older people who divorce also being more likely to live with a new partner without getting married. Overall three out of five older cohabitees are themselves divorced.
But divorce lawyers said a more relaxed attitude to the idea of cohabiting among today’s pensioners was also clearly playing a part.

Overall the number of over 65s cohabiting rose from 132,000 in 2001 to 262,000 at the last census – an increase from 1.6 per cent to 2.8 per cent of the retired population.

Read the full article here.