These Are Not Your Parent’s Grandparents

By Terry Portis

Did you (or will you) have mixed emotions about becoming a grandparent? Sure, you cannot wait to hold the baby, but taking on the title of “grandma” is just not all that exciting for you. For some people, the word “grandparent” conjures up an image of a frail, silver-haired person in a rocking chair. You could sit on their knee and listen to a story, and they probably had a piece of candy for you. It is time to put that image away, because grandparents of today are quite different!

          It is quite possible that we have more grandparents than ever before in our country. About 73 million people, or one in four adults, are grandparents. By the year 2020, one in three people will be a grandparent. The rate of people becoming grandparents is growing at twice the rate of the overall population. According to Grand magazine, more than 75 percent of the people over the age of 50 are grandparents. These are staggering statistics.

Active and involved

Grandparents today are not sitting on the front porch waiting for the end to come. They are active, many are still working and they often have leadership roles in their community. Most are involved in their grandchildren’s lives, seeing them once every week or two.

Don’t forget that people over 50 control 70 percent of this nation’s wealth. Grandparents are making or influencing many of the daily spending decisions in our country. MetLife’s Grandparents poll has found that grandparents provide $370 billion annually in financial assistance to grandchildren.

If policymakers overlook grandparents as a vital economic force, they are making a huge mistake!

Family expert Amy Goyer suggests that grandparents have become a safety net. As adult children struggle with economic and employment issues, grandparents may step in to help with errands, to pay for health insurance, or just to be there to provide a sense of stability during difficult times.

More grandparents than ever before are becoming primary caregivers for their grandchildren. According to latest census information, 5.8 million children now live with their grandparents. In these households the parent may be present, but often is not.

There are costs for caregivers

Raising children the second time around can have financial, physical and social consequences. According to AARP, 19 percent of the grandparents raising grandchildren are at or below the poverty line. The risk of heart disease in women increases, and caring for a child may isolate the person from others their age.

The good news is that there are resources now to help grandparents who find themselves parenting again. AARP has an excellent grandparent’s resource site. Their site includes GrandFacts, which gives state-specific information for grandparents who have become caregivers for their grandchildren.

AACC’s Parenting Center offers courses for parents, grandparents, caregivers and teachers. You can get more information by calling 410 777-2159 or sending an email to [email protected]

Dr. Terry Portis is director of the Center on Aging at Anne Arundel Community College.  He holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and can be reached at [email protected]



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