Silver Splitters: As Bill and Melinda Gates divorce, why are so many 60-somethings starting again?

Marie Claire Dorking
·4 min read

Watch: Bill and Melinda Gates announce they are ending their marriage.

Bill and Melinda Gates have revealed they are to divorce after 27 years of marriage.

The couple issued a joint statement last night saying that they had agreed they couldn’t grow old together as a couple.

“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” the statement said.

“Over the last 27 years we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives.

“We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”

Bill and Melinda Gates have announced they are to divorce, pictured in February 2019. (Getty Images)
Bill and Melinda Gates have announced they are to divorce, pictured in February 2019. (Getty Images)

Their 25-year-old daughter, Jennifer Gates, wrote on Instagram: "It's been a challenging stretch of time for our whole family. I'm still learning how to best support my own process and emotions".

Court documents revealed last night that it was Melinda Gates who filed for divorce, describing the marriage as “irretrievably broken”.

News of the couple's split will no doubt come as a surprise to many, particularly as in recent years they have publicly commented on the strength of their marriage.

During the filming of Inside Bill’s Brain, a Netflix documentary released less than two years ago, Bill Gates was filmed playing cards with the programme’s director, Davis Guggenheim. “You are lucky in life. And you are lucky in war,” Guggenheim says, referring to the card game. “And love, too,” replies Gates.

Read more: Relate and Rankin pair up in new campaign celebrating the joy of later life sex and intimacy

The rise of the later life divorce

While the overall divorce rate has actually started to decline, according to Relate the number of couples separating in later life is actually on the up.

“In England and Wales, divorce rates among the general population are falling but for over 65s they're on the rise," says Ammanda Major, head of service quality and clinical practice at relationships charity, Relate.

"We see a lot of couples in their 50s and 60s who have come to the conclusion they want different things from their later life and retirement.

"Children leaving home, retirement, health issues or caring for elderly relatives are often the catalyst for these kinds of discussions."

Experts say there has been a rise in later life divorces.  (Getty Images)
Experts say there has been a rise in later life divorces. (Getty Images)

Major says an ageing population could also be a contributing factor to the rise in couples splitting after many years together. 

"We’re all living longer so if you’re unhappy in your marriage at 65, you’re less likely to want to stick it out for what could be a very long time," she explains. 

"We’re also working longer and more likely to be financially independent at this age which makes divorce a more affordable prospect for some. 

"If you’re having relationship issues we’d suggest seeing a trained counsellor who can help you to work out what you both want and keep things as amicable as possible if you decide to split.”

Read more: How to look after your child's mental health when going through divorce

There are various reasons for the rise in senior splits. (Getty Images)
There are various reasons for the rise in senior splits. (Getty Images)

Read more: The subtle changes in language that could reveal your relationship is about to break up

Tips for dealing with later life divorce

Relate have put together some tips for coping with later life divorce...

· Do talk to your children about what’s happening. Your divorce is still likely to bring up painful emotions for them even though they are grown-up.

· Avoid bad-mouthing your partner to your children.

· Agree as a couple how you will tell the people your divorce affects – children, grandchildren, friends, in-laws – and how you may handle future events you are both invited to.

· Try to keep things as amicable as possible. Let your partner know this is your intention and talk together about how you can do your best to make this happen.

· Do a financial audit covering what your new budget will look like and any updates you want to make to your will.

· Take some actions that feed into your new life goals – this could be as simple as starting up an old hobby again, booking a holiday or taking up an exercise class.

· Practice self-care. Give yourself time to grieve the relationship, talk to trusted friends and look after yourself.

· Consider seeing a counsellor to understand what wasn’t working and what you want from your life in the future. Find out more at relate.org.uk.

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