Percentage of people aged 65 and over living in a married or cohabiting couple family, 2001, UK
In 2001 the majority (70 per cent) of older men aged 65 and over lived as part of a couple, but only 40 per cent of women did so. This reflects the tendency for women to outlive their husbands.
Marriage is the norm for older men, whereas older women are more likely to be widowed than married. Nearly half of older women were widows in 2001, and the proportion rose to four fifths for women aged 85 and over. Only 17 per cent of men aged 65 and over were widowers, and this reached 43 per cent among men in their late 80s.
Remarriage is increasingly prevalent, especially among men, with older widowed or divorced men more likely to remarry later in life than comparable older women.
There is a small but growing proportion of divorced older men. More men in their late 60s are divorced or separated (9 per cent) than widowed (7 per cent). Older divorced men are more likely than other older men to be socially isolated from family and friends, and engage in more risky health behaviours, such as smoking and high alcohol consumption.
For those who are not in a partnership, the norm is to live alone. In 2001, 22 per cent of older men and 44 per cent of older women lived alone, and the proportion increased with age. In addition, with advancing age, increasing proportions of older people lived without a partner but with their children (6.7 per cent of women and 3.7 per cent of men aged 85 and over). Similarly, the proportion living with others (not their children) increased with age, reaching 7.6 per cent of women and 6.1 per cent of men aged 85 and over.
Older women are much more likely than older men to live in a communal establishment. For those aged 85 and over the proportion of women living in such a setting in 2001 was double that of men of the same age - 23 per cent compared with 12 per cent.
Source: Census 2001, Office for National Statistics Mid Year Population Estimates, Office for National Statistics
Notes A communal establishment is an establishment providing managed residential accommodation. Sheltered housing is treated as a communal establishment if less than half the residents possess their own cooking facilities.