Driving home after celebrating their 25th anniversary on the coast, Californian Tracy Bryant came to the conclusion that she didn't want to grow old with her husband. Bryan, now 53 says both her and her spouse had significantly changed since they met and began dating in college. Their divorce was finalized in 2008.

With more and more baby boomers approaching retirement, many are realizing they aren't up to spending their increased allowance of free time with their spouse. The divorce rate for older couples is on the rise.

Baby boomers are defined as those born in the period after World War II ended, between 1946 and 1964. This segment of the population already has a divorce rate that is 300 percent of their parents' generation. Boomers have created the popular concept of "gray divorce" where couples will split after two decades of marriage or more. This has led some to play off the prior generation's "greatest generation" label and classify boomers as the "greatest divorcing generation."

Though the Census Bureau has only tracked divorce rates in recent years, it reports in 2008 that 25 percent of new divorces took place between couples who had been together for at least 20 years. 2008 reports also indicate nearly 51 percent of all those divorced people were baby boomers.

Christina Clem of AARP California says boomers are at the center of a large shift in our culture. Prior generations had no choice but to stick to their marriages, as spouses were quite dependent on each other. In contrast, baby boomers tend to be very independent and willing to make their own way in the world.

To take a deeper dive, increased divorce rates seem to be driven by the older section of the boomer generation. They keep splitting up in increasing numbers even as divorce rates for those born in the early 60's decline and even as the national average has dropped from its peak of 5.3 divorced people per 1,000 in 1981 to just 3.5 in present day (which matches the rate in 1970). Divorce was highest just as the oldest of the generation were coming of age. One could conclude divorce is more natural to baby boomers than to other generations.

California ceased tracking divorce data in the late 1990's, but our state's marriage therapists and divorce lawyers routinely report seeing a constant uptick in baby boomer clients working their way through the end of a long-term marriage. Some marriages end because of infidelity, while others simple change. Al and Tipper Gore's divorce after 40 years of marriage, announced earlier this summer, is a prime example of the latter.

Prior generations didn't have to think about the possibility of being married for 50 plus years, as they didn't ever live that long. Increased divorce rates for older couples may in time be viewed as just another symptom of increased life expectancy.

Source: Monterey County Herald "Baby boomers lead new wave of 'gray divorce'" 8/20/10