Study: More baby boomers facing old age alone

A new study paints a bleak portrait of America's aging baby boomers.

The study by researchers at Bowling Green University found that one-third of adults aged 45-63 are unmarried. That's an increase of more than 50 percent from 1980 figures, when just 20 percent of middle-aged Americans were unmarried.

In 1970, less than 13 percent of Americans age 46 to 64 were single, reported the Deseret News .

This snapshot of some 79 million Americans comes from the university's National Center for Family and Marriage Research. Researchers used data from the 1980, 1990 and 2000 censuses and the 2009 round of the American Community Survey.

The Bowling Green study showed that boomers' married counterparts had much better quality of life. For example, the study said one in five single baby boomers was living in poverty, compared to one in 20 of their married counterparts.

In addition, the study found that single boomers were twice as likely to be disabled and less likely to have health insurance.

Divorced boomers were better off economically and had better health when compared to their widowed or never-married counterparts.

The prospect for unmarried boomers to tie the knot for the first time in middle age is very low. The researchers said nearly all never married boomers will remain unmarried.

"The shift in marital composition of the middle-aged suggests that researchers and policymakers can no longer focus on widowhood in later life and should pay attention to the vulnerabilities of the never-married and divorced as well," I-Fen Lin, an associate professor of sociology, said in a news release.

Without spouses or children to care for them, aging boomers face difficult sunset years, the researchers said.

"These shifting family patterns portend new strains on existing institutional supports for the elderly," Susan Brown, a professor of sociology and co-director of the center, said in the release. "As more singles enter older adulthood, we as a society may have to reconsider how we care for frail elders. The family may no longer be a viable option for an increasing segment of older adults."

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