SHANGHAI: For those who think rising divorce rates are a symptom of youth, take note.
Just in time for today's Double Nine Festival (Sept 9 in Chinese lunar calendar), a traditional day for old people in China, new numbers show that divorce rates in the country are also rising for people over 60.
"Decades ago, couples would be laughed at if they divorced. Now they may think the quality of life will improve if they choose to split up," said Xu Anqi, a sociology researcher with Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
By the end of last month, the Shanghai Jing'an District People's Court, the only court in the country with a special tribunal for old people, had handled 37 divorce cases involving couples aged 60 or above, a 68-percent increase on last year.
Li Hongguang, a judge with the court, said the number of older couples filing for divorce has been rising in Shanghai. "And this year we see the highest ever," he said.
Remarried couples normally have a higher risk of divorce, he said, "but we are seeing more who are in their 60s and divorcing their first spouse."
Ni Qiang, a judge dealing with divorce cases at the court, said older couples begin to focus more on themselves and their relationship after their children get married.
"In a more open-minded society, they are not afraid of getting divorced if they find it too hard to get along," he said.
He said old people who are well-educated and rich have a higher risk of getting divorced compared with their contemporaries.
Xu, however, disagreed.
"No trend has been found that rich, elderly people with high education tend to divorce more than others," she said.
"People with poor financial and social positions make up the biggest proportion of the group getting divorced."
She said older people are being influenced by young people's attitudes toward marriage.
Yao Zheng, director of the No 3 litigation department of Jing'an district court, said the first few years after retirement can be a difficult time for a married couple.
"When one or both of them first retire, they haven't adapted to a life without work and sometimes become emotional. In that case, they tend to fight more," said Yao.
"Some couples who have been unhappy with their marriage find it is the time to end it when their children all have their own families."
But despite an increasing divorce rate, Xu's survey of more than 1,000 divorced couples has found that more than 80 percent of divorced people tie the knot again within five years.