Positive Aging: Too Old to Marry?

Marilyn Murray Willison on

People over the age of 50 used to lament that they found themselves attending more funerals than weddings, but that scenario may be changing. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center report on the demographics of remarriage, 67% of previously married people between 55 and 64 years of age have remarried. Back in 1960 -- for the same age group -- that statistic was only 34%.

A variety of changes is responsible for this uptick in "older age" nuptials, and perhaps the most prominent is the fact that we are all enjoying longer, and potentially healthier, life spans. For some romantically involved couples, marriage is a way to ensure medical access in case of a partner's accident or illness, while for others it can be a financially motivated merging of lifestyle expenses. Whatever the reason, marriage -- especially among individuals who are over 65 -- is on the rise.

Since I lived in London for five years and have been a lifelong Anglophile, I was surprised to notice the same trend among people in the United Kingdom. In Britain, the number of grooms (in 2012) who were in their late 60s increased by 25%, while brides of the same age went up by 21%. Obviously, baby boomers on both sides of the Atlantic are ready, willing and able to say "I do" at an age that would have been unthinkable for previous generations.

Dr. Kate Davidson, co-author of "Intimacy in Later Life," researched the reasons that older couples gave for wanting to get married. Evidently, when it comes to "repartnering" later in life, men are in search of an enhanced private life while women are looking for someone to go out with. And while widows tend to remarry widowers -- often someone they've known socially for years -- widowers make no distinctions between a divorced, single or widowed bride.

According to the Journal of Marriage and Family, many older couples worry that marriage might trigger higher health care costs, negatively affect retirement benefits, raise their tax levels or disrupt their in-place estate plans. The Human Rights Campaign argues that marriage conveys more than 1,000 tax breaks, benefits and governmental protections.


Not surprisingly, all this talk of love and romance among older people reveals that Cupid still has a few ageist tendencies. According to Sara Arber, co-director of the Centre for Research on Ageing and Gender at the University of Surrey, "For a woman over 65 there is a 10,000 to one chance of marriage and for a man the odds fall to 1,000 to one."

Obviously, love and marriage remain complicated no matter what age you are, or where you live. Perhaps the prickliest issue is the reaction of offspring when Mom or Dad decides to remarry, due to potentially disruptive financial complications. Lina Guillen, an attorney and co-author of last year's "Living Together: A Legal Guide for Unmarried Couples," advises that the "gold standard" for older couples who want to remarry is signing both a will and a prenuptial agreement. That's the best way to ensure that their grown children's inheritance will not be compromised.


Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir "One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes." She can be reached at To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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