Linda Colling: Silver and single in Sunderland

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HE was 73 and raking through the furniture in St Peter’s Church for bargain buys from Sunderland Community Furniture Service, desperate to kit out his new abode.

He looked lost and the fact that his wife had turfed him out because she wanted a divorce hadn’t quite sunk in.

He couldn’t understand why in all the world she would want one and for him to leave the marital home after a lifetime together. She no doubt had her reasons, good or otherwise. As for this man’s plight, it’s all part of a new phenomena – silver separations.

Pensioners are the only age group where the divorce rate is booming. The fact is you’re not old at 60 or 70. We are living longer and our expectations in all areas of life, are higher.

So, it’s no surprise that with the stigma of divorce gone, retirement can be the trigger for those who discover they can’t stand their spouse and have nothing in common with each other.

It’s a time for reflection. Many couples who have stuck it out for the sake of the children, want a fresh start and a chance to find happiness. They may be over 60, but far from over the hill.

For many it’s just the start of the next phase in their life, not the end. Once this was the age for cocoa and slippers. But no more. They’re travelling the globe and so many oldies are dating so avidly and recklessly, there’s been such a significant increase in sexually-transmitted diseases, that warnings have gone out to their age group to use condoms.,

The latest figures show that more than 11,500 over 60s were granted a divorce in 2009 – up four per cent in two years.

Whether they are up for starting another relationship, as many do, is part and parcel of their quest for happiness.

Children often do not like their parents parting and no doubt would far prefer them playing out being Darby and Joan and living out their twilight years happily drawing their pension and no worry to them at all.

However, the fit and frisky over 60s who have discovered their marriage is an empty shell, have as much right as any age to seize the moment and make a new life for themselves.

So many are doing just that and have caused a major social revolution, with golden oldies no longer behaving in the traditional manner.

It’s always sad, however old a couple are, when the parting comes and one partner doesn’t want to call time on the marriage. For those facing the future alone it is frightening and then there’s the loneliness and feeling like a fish out of water in social settings as a singleton.

It’s so very difficult after all those years with someone to have the freedom to date again, which is why Sunderland Age UK has a Silver Singles Club. More men are desperately needed for the club, which is open to widows, widowers and divorcees.

It is in a non-threatening social setting that people can meet and if they fancy their chances, as some have, swap telephone numbers and start seeing one another. As yet there’s been no wedding bells.

For those who aren’t up for dating anyone, there’s Coffee and Company every Tuesday afternoon from 2pm-3.30pm in Age UK’s coffee shop at 26, Stockton Road.