THEY are the grey-divorcees, the silver-splitters for whom life — and sex — really does begin at 70.
Healthier and wealthier than any previous generation they are hitting the divorce courts in their thousands, many ready to shed the past and look to the future, even in their 80s and 90s.
Between 2010 and mid-2013, more than 3600 couples, where one partner was aged 70 or over, lodged divorce applications in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court, court statistics show.
Relationships Australia manager Sue Yorston said women were leading the trend.
“It is tied up with living longer. Women are saying well, we’re going to have all these years in retirement and know what? I am going to do what I want to do,” Ms Yorston said.
In 1991, the number of women aged over 50 initiating divorces made up 6.3 per 1000 of the general population, according to Australia Bureau of Statistics figures.
By 2011, that had more than doubled — to 15.2 per cent.
“One of the things that surprised us was the number of older women who are having active and enjoyable sexual relationships,” Mr Yorston said.
A Relationships Australia survey asked people about how satisfied they were with their sex life. At 72 per cent, those aged 70 or over said they were just as satisfied with their sex lives as those aged 18 to 23.
Irene and Bob Ungaro, both 71 from Waterloo, have been together for 53 years. Divorce is the last things on their minds.
The couple credit sharing interests, including lawn bowls and volunteering, for keeping the spark in their marriage,
“We were married when we were 17 and we do everything together. We love each other’s company,” Mrs Ungaro said.
One of the highest-profile grey-divorcees is Monty Python’s John Cleese, 74, who brought his Alimony Tour to Sydney last year to raise money after divorcing his third wife, Faye Eichelberger, 64. He has since remarried.
Then there was the case in the Family Court in 2010 when a divorce was granted to an 89-year-old wife who represented herself in a case against her husband, aged 90, who she claimed was violent.
In another case the court ruled on the assets of a 90-year-old blind man and his younger wife, aged 67, who is partly deaf. Married for 25 years, the court divided the assets 52.8 per cent to the man, the rest to his wife.
More recently, an 87-year-old woman took her 85-year-old estranged husband to court seeking a settlement.
The couple had been married for just a year although they had been together 10 years.
Based on the Number of Divorce applications where either the Applicant or the Respondent is at least 70 years of age for applications lodged in the Federal Circuit Court or the Family Court of Australia within July 2010 to June 2013 inclusive.
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