More baby boomers facing old age alone

April 16, 2012

Startling new statistics from Bowling Green State University's National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) paint a bleak future for the largest generation in history, the baby boomers, as they cross into old age.

Using data from the 1980, 1990 and 2000 censuses and the 2009 round of the American Community Survey, Dr. I-Fen Lin, an associate professor of sociology, and Dr. Susan Brown, a professor of sociology and co-director of the NCFMR, found one-third of adults aged 45-63 are unmarried. This represents a more than 50 percent increase since 1980, when just 20 percent of middle-aged Americans were unmarried.

Most single boomers are divorced or never married. In fact, one in three single baby boomers has never been married. Just 10 percent of unmarried boomers are widowed.

"The shift in marital composition of the middle-aged suggests that researchers and can no longer focus on in later life and should pay attention to the vulnerabilities of the never-married and divorced as well," said Lin.

According to Brown, one in five single baby boomers is living in poverty compared to one in 20 for their married counterparts. Single boomers are twice as likely to be disabled, but they are also less likely to have .

The previous marital status of unmarried also has significant . In general, divorced boomers have more and than their widowed or never married counterparts.

Of particular concern is the large share of unmarried boomers who have never been married. According to the researchers, the probability of marrying for the first time during is extremely low, meaning that nearly all of the never married boomers will remain unmarried.

"The economic and health vulnerabilities of single boomers are concerning because boomers are now moving into old age when failing health becomes even more common and severe," said Brown.

"In the past, family members, particularly spouses, have provided care to infirm older adults. But a growing share of older adults aren't going to have a spouse available to rely on for support. Our figures indicate one in three boomers won't have a spouse who can care for them. And, unmarrieds are less likely to have children who might provide care. These shifting family patterns portend new strains on existing institutional supports for the elderly. As more singles enter older adulthood, we as a society may have to reconsider how we care for frail elders. The family may no longer be a viable option for an increasing segment of older adults."

Explore further: Single baby boomers facing increased challenges as they age

Related Stories

Single baby boomers facing increased challenges as they age

April 4, 2012
Nick and Bobbi Ercoline, the couple depicted on the "Woodstock" soundtrack album cover, have now been happily married for over 40 years. However, a new special issue of The Gerontologist showing the Ercolines as they look ...

Divorce hurts health more at earlier ages

January 30, 2012
Divorce at a younger age hurts people's health more than divorce later in life, according to a new study by a Michigan State University sociologist.

'Never married' men still more likely to die from cancer

October 14, 2011
It is known that the unmarried are in general more likely to die than their married counterparts and there is some indication that the divide is in fact getting worse. New research published in BioMed Central's open access ...

Recommended for you

Could insufficient sleep be adding centimeters to your waistline?

July 27, 2017
Adults in the UK who have poor sleep patterns are more likely to be overweight and obese and have poorer metabolic health, according to a new study.

Sugar not so sweet for mental health

July 27, 2017
Sugar may be bad not only for your teeth and your waistline, but also your mental health, claimed a study Thursday that was met with scepticism by other experts.

Vitamin E-deficient embryos are cognitively impaired even after diet improves

July 27, 2017
Zebrafish deficient in vitamin E produce offspring beset by behavioral impairment and metabolic problems, new research at Oregon State University shows.

The role of dosage in assessing risk of hormone therapy for menopause

July 27, 2017
When it comes to assessing the risk of estrogen therapy for menopause, how the therapy is delivered—taking a pill versus wearing a patch on one's skin—doesn't affect risk or benefit, researchers at UCLA and elsewhere ...

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.