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Relate Report Puts Older People’s Relationships In Spotlight

Legal Experts Comment On Changing Nature Of Family Life


By Rob Dixon

Fresh calls for more relationship support to be offered to older people are a vital step forward and a welcome sign of the growing recognition of the issues which couples can face as they head towards and enter retirement, according to a family law expert.

UK charity Relate has published a report which urges the government to formulate a new and comprehensive strategy on ageing, with the ultimate aim of ensuring people are able to enjoy a good quality of relationships in later life.

The report explained that provisions need to be in place to deal with the changing nature of family life in recent decades, with a growth in separation as well as an increase in cohabitation and remarriage – with this also leading to the formation of stepfamilies and extended families.

It added that recognition of the importance of relationships was needed, particularly the role they can play in preventing negative issues and also realising greater benefits as people get older.

John Nicholson, a Partner and specialist in family law at Irwin Mitchell, said the report rightly identified the difficulties that older people can face.

He outlined: “Heading towards retirement is an extremely difficult time for many, as they face up to getting older and the end of the routine that working life has provided.

“Through our work, we have seen how this change can go on to have an impact in a number of ways and it is common knowledge that a rise in so-called ‘silver separation’ has been seen in recent years, sometimes as a result of children flying the nest but often simply from a recognition that two people have grown apart and one, at least, wants a fresh start.

“Part of the reason is that for many of their parents retirement marked the beginning of the end, quite literally. Few men survived many years after they drew their pension at 65. Today, with actuarial life expectancies in their eighties for both men and women, unhappy couples are not prepared to spend what might be a quarter of their lives in a miserable relationship.

“Undoubtedly of course, the shift in attitude towards divorce – once regarded as a taboo – will have played a part too, as will greater financial independence for some women.

“This complexity and shift in attitudes means later life can be extremely difficult, so we welcome this report’s calls for a greater appreciation of the benefits and development of a better network of relationships.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in relation to Family Law