Who needs marriage? seems to be the pervasive trend among baby boomers choosing to live together instead of saying the “I Dos.”
It’s only fitting that baby boomers are leading the way when it comes to shacking up among older Americans. It’s fitting because the group born between 1946 and 1964 are the first generation to cohabitate—as the researchers like to call it—in large numbers.
Cohabitation, once thought to be the lifestyle of younger people aged 20-40ish, has now grown into a very real option for those 50 years and older after they divorce. Cohabitating is now viewed by many as the best long-term alternative to marriage for older Americans.
With divorces for those 50 and older doubling since 1990 and making up 25 percent of all US divorces, up from 8 percent two decades ago—many older Americans aren’t choosing to tough out the rest of their days alone. But that doesn’t mean they want to get married, either.
Cohabitation has grown from 1.2 million people ages 50 and older in 2000 to 3.3 million in 2013 and rising, according to Susan Brown, co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University. Brown co-authored a study on cohabitation with Jennifer Roebuck Bulanda, a sociology professor at Miami University (Ohio) and Gary R. Lee, a sociology professor at Bowling Green.
“Cohabitation is gaining ground as a family form across the life course,” the researchers say.
The study says most researchers have focused their attention on young and middle-age adults and ignored older Americans. Most of the study done on them is on marriage or widowhood, but not on cohabitation.
With baby boomers aging, this trend is only going to grow because this was the first group to cohabit in large numbers in the first place, the study says. In essence, many are returning to their roots of what they did before they got married in the first place. The study states “cohabitation will be increasingly common among older Americans.”