Reimagine Everything: Research: First-Time Grandparents Are Older, and More Still Work

April 26, 2019 • AARP, Columnists

Ron Mori

AARP recently released its Grandparents Today National Survey, which highlights the latest trends among grandparents in the United States. Since 2001, the number of grandparents has grown by 24 percent, from 56 million to 70 million. In addition, four in 10 grandparents work, contributing to their strength as a significant market force.

The AARP survey revealed that while grandparents make important financial contributions to their grandchildren, they also share wisdom and guidance. Many say they relish giving advice on everything from health to education, thereby providing a moral compass, as well as emotional and social support, to their grandchildren.

Grandparents also contribute to their grandchildren’s well-being by babysitting or serving as their primary caregivers. One in 10 live in the same household as their 
grandchildren and babysit, and 5 percent of 
these grandparents provide their grandchildren’s primary care, according to the national 
representative sample.

Currently, one-third of grandparents surveyed have grandchildren of a different race or ethnicity than their own. In 2011, 77 percent of grandparents had identical-race grandchildren, but by 2018, that number had declined to 
72 percent.

Grandparents who have a grandchild of a different race or ethnicity say it is important to help their grandchildren learn about the heritage they share. In addition, seven in 10 make an effort to help their grandchildren learn about the heritage they do not share.

This struck a nerve with me and made me so thankful of JACL-supported programs that impact multiple generations. Both of my daughters have benefited from participating in and volunteering with our local JACL 
Washington, D.C., chapter over the years.

In contrast to former generations, today’s grandparents are more accepting of their grandchildren’s different sexualities as well, with a majority saying they would support an LGBT grandchild. A strong majority (73 percent) of the grandparents surveyed enjoy their role and rate their performance as high, up from 66 percent in 2011.

With four in 10 grandparents in the workforce today, their busy schedules as well as the schedules of their children and grandchildren create the second-largest barrier to spending time with their grandchildren.

However, many feel it’s vital to connect with their grandchildren because it gives them a mental and emotional boost. To overcome time constraints, grandparents increasingly adopt new technologies, such as group texting and video chats. As grandparents’ use of new technologies increases, however, their use of phone calls to contact their grandchildren decreases. Only 46 percent say they reached out to their grandchildren by phone in 2018, while 70 percent did in 2011.

Other Key Findings of the Research Include:

  • 94 percent of grandparents provide some sort of financial support to their grandchild(ren).
  • 87 percent would accept an LGBT 
grandchild.
  • 34 percent have grandchildren of mixed or different race/ethnicity.
  • 71 percent say their health status is very good or excellent.
  • 89 percent say their relationships with their grandchild(ren) is good for their mental well-being.
  • 29 percent live more than 50 miles away from their closest child, up from 19 percent in 2011.
  • 11 percent have a grandchild living with them, consistent with 2011 results.
  • 5 percent of those in multigenerational households are primary caregivers of a grandchild living with them.

Just remember that the more emotional support grandparents and grandchildren give each other, the happier and healthier they all will be.

One day, I look forward to being in the ranks of grandparents teaching and learning new things with my grandchildren.

Ron Mori is a member of the Washington, D.C., JACL chapter and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.

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