Breaking up housekeeping is a phrase used by the last generation of folks down where I grew up in Texas. It did not refer to a divorce but a different type of end to a couple's life together or giving up a home by an individual. The term described the time when elderly folks could no longer maintain their own home. All their life's possessions would be parsed out to friends and relatives or sold for needed money.
The inability to care for themselves due to health reasons was a common reason for breaking up housekeeping. Just as common was a lack of financial means to maintain an independent home. In families where the adult children had very little more than the parents, the couple might actually have to live separately with different children. In really bad financial situations, folks would go to the "Poor Farm".
Granny & Grandaddy Chandler did not really break up housekeeping. A devastating fire took care of the majority of their possessions. Their final years were spent at the Tanner Cave house at the corner of farm to market road 543 and US highway 75. They shared this last home with their two youngest sons after WWII.
After Grandaddy Chandler passed away in the early 1950's my mom let me spend a great deal of time with Granny and Uncle Clay. I loved it cause they spoiled me. Especially Uncle Clay. And Aunt Opal, Mom's sister that worked in Downtown Dallas as a phone operator. Clay bought me a cowboy suit with hat and boots. I still have the pants in my cedar chest. Aunt Opal brought me a Golden book every time she came home. I still have about 45 of the books.
In Texas there was a program named Old Age Assistance. The checks were mailed once a month.
I fondly remember being at my Granny Chandler's home the day the check was due to arrive. She took my hand as we crossed the road to check the mail. I ask her if she had got her "Old Ladies check". I can still see the smile on her face. And the story is a standard at family reunions.
In 1953 Clay married a wonderful lady, Celestine Miller, who had two children, Jerry and Lynda. The deal up front was the Granny would always have a home with Clay. Granny would come to our house lots of weekends. After Aunt Opal and Uncle Bud married and started families, Granny would spend time with each of them. But Granny's home, the place where her bed, wardrobe, cedar chest and fan were, was with Uncle Clay and Aunt Susie as we called Celestine, till Granny's death in February, 1969.
I am not sure what brought about the change of term for the end of independent living. Probably started with some ad guys like the ones in the advertising agency depicted in "Mad Men". Older people were encouraged to live in "Senior Communities" or "Golf Communities". It really does not matter what it is called. Retirement community, assisted living, skilled care. It is still breaking up housekeeping.