Grandparenthood and Aging

Grandparenthood has multiple meanings for the person, depending in part on age at the initial time of grandparenthood, and the number and accomplishments of the grandchildren are probably a source of status. The stage of grandparenthood may come to middle-aged persons depending on the age of their own childbearing and age of their children’s childbearing. The relatively young grandparent may either like and accept or resist the role and may not like the connection of age and being a grandparent.

Grandparents are often happy with their role in that they can enjoy the young person and enter into a playful, informal, companionable and confiding relationship. The grandchild is seen as a source of leisure activity, someone for whom to purchase items that are also enjoyable to the grandparent.
Grandchildren have a special tie to grandparents. The research indicates that even when there was a divorce in the family, adult children from divorced families continued their relationships with grandparents.

Grandparents increasingly are the main caretakers of the child, often in the custodial role. Sometimes the grandparents serve as babysitters or a day-care service. The number of grand and great grandparents is increasing as more people live longer. The statistics are telling. According to a recent article in the New York Times, there are 70 million Americans who have grandchildren.

The role of being a grandparent is emotionally fulfilling. These young family members provide a sense of personal and family renewal, add diversion to conversation if not activities, and mark longevity. Above all, grandparents want to influence the younger generation with their wisdom, remain connected, share values and family stories, and give meaning to their transcendence.

In her book “The Essential Grandparent,” Lillian Carson says, “Grandparenting is healthy for us.” She goes on to state “being in touch with the younger generation literally beefs up the immune system.”

Other than being great news for Hallmark, it is possible that a Grandparents Day will catch on as a nationally shared holiday, if not already. What is especially interesting is that the same boomers who doted on their children are now lavishing attention on the next generation.

An AARP study showed that 25% of grandparents have spent more than $1,000 in the past year on their grandchildren. The study goes on to state that the money spent was on gifts and vacations. An entire travel industry has now grown around intergenerational travel according to the AARP study. The author, Barbara Graham, was quoted as saying, “My mother loved my son, but there was nothing like the level of obsession my friends and I have for our grandchildren.”

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