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(Britain) Half a million lonely old men, the price of 'no fault' divorce

Divorce and family break-up has left millions of men without ties to their children and with few or no family links, said the charity Help the Aged.

Daily Mail (Britain)
10 June 2008

Half a million lonely old men pay price of the divorce boom
By Steve Doughty, Social Affairs Correspondent

Half a million elderly men lead lonely lives with no friends and no contact with their families, a report warned yesterday.

It found that one person in five with an elderly father is no longer in touch with him. One in four claims to be too busy to maintain contact.

Divorce and family break-up has left millions of men without ties to their children and with few or no family links, said the charity Help the Aged.

Retirement deprives many of the company of work colleagues and others are left alone by bereavement or their own poor health.

Of the million elderly men who live alone, half have no human contact and many feel trapped inside their homes. Amy Swan of Help the Aged said: "We are seeing the first real wave of the "divorce generation" hitting retirement".

"As fathers were typically the parents who did not win custody of the children, many are entering later life with strained family ties".

"Today, around half the number of older men living alone are experiencing some form of loneliness or isolation."

The number of divorces tripled in the early 1970s after the liberal reforms of 1969 made 'quickie' decrees available for the first time and removed the question of fault in many cases.

Men who divorced in the early 1970s while in their mid-thirties will now be 70 years old and many have lost all contact with children who would otherwise be close to them.

While divorce rates remain high in 2006 there were nearly 133, 000 the effects of the growth of cohabitation and rapid family break-up from the 1980s are now beginning to have an impact on the lives of men who have grown old. A survey of 2, 000 respondents carried out for the charity and the Zurich Community Trust by ICM Research said one in five adults felt guilty at not seeing an elderly father more often, half would like to have more contact with their father and two in five live too far away to see him regularly.

Two in five, the survey found, do not intend visiting ageing fathers this Sunday, Father's Day.

Miss Swan said: "Nothing can substitute human contact to combat isolation and loneliness".

"Whether its setting up a regular phone call, visit or even sending a letter, we can all play a part in helping alleviate the social isolation felt by so many older people."

Jane Boulton of the Zurich Community Trust added: "Often just that little bit of contact and support makes someone feel able to retain choice, control and dignity in their life."
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