By Treezer Michelle Atieno
As I close my eyes and let my imagination wander, I find myself envisioning a beautiful future with my partner, growing old together in the sacred bond of marriage. I can see us sitting on a porch swing, our hands intertwined, as we watch the sunset paint the sky in hues of orange and pink. The wrinkles on our faces tell tales of a lifetime spent together, filled with love, laughter, and shared experiences. But in this era of grey divorces, things may not turn out this way for most people.
In recent years, Kenya has witnessed a significant increase in what is commonly referred to as “grey divorce,” a term used to describe the dissolution of marriages among older couples (over 50 years old) who have been married for a considerable period.
Married couples envision a future filled with companionship, love, and support. Joint plans for retirement, spending quality time together, becoming grandparents, traveling the world, pursuing hobbies together, or simply enjoying each other’s company during their golden years.
67-year-old Michael Odhiambo has seen these dreams fade and disappear. He is old, retired, recently divorced and currently living alone in his four-bedroom mansion in Migosi estate, Kisumu County.
” Immediately after the divorce, my wife moved to Australia and soon after our son, who is our only child, followed her. Ever since I have been living alone in this house. I cook, clean, and maintain the compound by myself. While I can hire workers to help with some of the chores, it would eventually affect my finances now that I am retired, ” says Michael.
According to existing research, the rise of grey divorce in Kenya can be attributed to several factors. One of them is changing societal norms. Traditional expectations of lifelong marriages are being challenged by evolving attitudes towards individual happiness and personal fulfillment, particularly among older adults.
Improved healthcare and better living conditions have resulted in increased life expectancy in Kenya. This has led to longer life spans and a desire for older individuals to seek happiness and companionship outside of their existing marriages.
Additionally, the rise of women’s empowerment and increased financial independence are more likely to initiate divorce. This newfound economic autonomy enables women to pursue their own interests and leave unhappy marriages.
As grey divorce rises in Kenya, the affected parties continue to experience loneliness, depression, financial challenges especially when there is a lack of adequate retirement savings, social stigma, and complex legal processes.
It is crucial for society to recognize and address the unique needs of older adults experiencing grey divorce, offering support networks, counseling services, and legal assistance to mitigate the negative impacts and promote healthy aging in Kenya.