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Women Over 50 in Crisis

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  • Article contributed by our guest blogger Dr. Karen Phillip.

    Recent research indicates that older women are becoming the fastest-growing group of disadvantaged people.

    According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the divorce rate for those over 60 years old has escalated considerably over the last decade. 

    I am seeing the escalation in my counselling rooms from people even in their mid-fifties. This often occurs because the last child leaves home, or is barely ever home, leaving the couple isolated with only each other's company. Far too often couples lose their ‘coupleness’ during their marriage because of work, kids, and the pressures of life. Perhaps there have been years of disharmony, or the couple may have just lost touch and feel more like strangers than partners. It is during this time that many decide to spend their sunset years of life in a new, and they believe, more exciting environment.

    Far too often women are the primary parent and household worker within the family.

    The men continue moving along in their careers while the women work part-time or don’t take up opportunities due to the ongoing pressure of caring for the family and children. This is selfless for women but feasible during the marriage, especially while the children remain busy at school and with after school activities. Women also want to make sure their working husbands are happy, comfortable and cared for.

    What happens when the relationship breaks down and the couple separates? 

    Once the children are over 18 the child support stops. The woman, often less trained or out of touch with full-time work, struggles financially. The man continues along much the same path as before.  Nothing really changes for him except his address. The woman, however, struggles to survive, often needs to plead for Centrelink support and now has to manage alone. She is often unable to buy him out of the house as her income is not equal to his. If he can’t buy her out they are forced to sell their family home. Separation and divorce are extremely costly as all assets must be divided, yet our living costs remain the same. Accommodation is where the most significant struggle is felt. When I heard about ‘The Room Xchange’, I was relieved to discover someone had addressed this issue.

    For many women, post-divorce life is the first time they have ever resided independently.

    I am now suggesting to clients that they take in a roommate to help out with the many jobs they are unable to manage and to have some company in their home. Too often women go straight from living with their parents to their marriage. They live with their husband and then children for the next 20 to 30 years, surrounded by others, caring for others and doing things for others.  Then, when forced to live alone, it can be confronting. As a family futurist I can see a continued increase in this issue for decades to come. Equality is not going to be a reality for a long time, especially for mature age women.

    Many women now find themselves unable to purchase their own property, or at least until a settlement has been completed and only if they can demonstrate a capacity to repay. Women can now, through The Room Xchange, find safe residence with another person or family without paying for living costs. All they need to do is provide two hours of household help each day in Xchange for food and accommodation.  Many women find this requirement easy and natural. Imagine living with a young family for a while and helping out with the kids. Or providing simple domestic chores such as washing or cooking. Picture having dinner together and feeling like a part of this new family. The company, laughter and the feeling of belonging can support women immensely during this difficult time. Imagine living with another woman in the same position you now find yourself in. You can make new friends for life while residing somewhere you like, without the expenses. The fact that all users require identity verification via Digital iD (by Australia Post) provides additional security.

    I look forward to women, especially older women, taking up the opportunity if the need arises.

    Knowing there is an option that is practical and affordable is crucial at a time of turmoil in our lives. When we experience a relationship breakdown one of the best ways to recover is to do something proactive. When we open ourselves up to opportunities like this, it can add a new dimension to our lives and move us toward a better and brighter future.

    If you need help going through this issue, please go to for more information.

    Many thanks to Dr. Karen Phillip for writing this article. Her contact information is below.