One of the interesting aspects of my job is the opportunity to observe at close quarters how Britain’s home life is changing.
Not so long ago, for instance, we might have considered the interests of someone of pension age as primarily being allotments, bingo and grandchildren. However, affluence, greater longevity and the internet have transformed the stereotype of a cardigan-wearing senior into an individual with a zest for life. People of all generations are now simply more aware of the world around them.
Gone, it seems, are the days when many couples might remain in an imperfect marriage once their children had grown up and left home because it was “the done thing”. As figures from the Office for National Statistics demonstrate, for a growing number of people, mid-life does not constitute the start of a slow, gentle decline into dotage.
The concept of the “silver split” has shown people to possess both intolerance of unhappy relationships and the independence to pursue something new. That partly manifests itself in the increase in marriages between those aged 65 and 69 – faster than any other age group in 2012. It appears that – abroad, at least - the law has become another enabler of those wishing to explore new horizons.
In Italy, one-quarter of all divorces this year are expected to involve over-65s, a proportion which is five times greater than that two decades ago. A reduction in the time which separated couples must wait before being divorced – from three years to six months – came into effect in Italy in May and is prompting even more pensioners to exit their marriages.
One divorce lawyer, speaking to The Times newspaper, suggested that drugs to pep up their love lives and a greater interest in how they look was turning those aged 70 into “the new Peter Pans”.
I can see what he means. Our whole idea of ageing has been turned on its head by the shake-up in social structure and our culture’s twin obsessions of appearance and consumerism.
If we’re unhappy with something – whether it is a car, our clothes or our partners, for that matter - we are perhaps more inclined to do something about it than at any time before. And this is no preserve of the young either.
Oratto’s specialist family lawyers regularly deal with cases involving those who might be classed as among the more senior members of society bringing marriages to a close in order to live the rest of their lives doing as they want away from the misery of an unhappy relationship. Whilst the volume of such cases might not be as dramatic as it is in Italy, the quest for la vita bella is as every bit as common in Rochdale as it is in Rome.