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Why Grandparents Matter More than Ever

Why Grandparents Matter More than Ever

Written by Jeff Anderson
 about the author
4 minute readLast updated October 23, 2013

Late American humorist, Sam Levenson, said wryly, “The reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they have a common enemy.” Everything in life can be laughed at, but it also must be acknowledged that grandparents are crucially important figures, both to their grandchildren and adult children, but also to society as a whole.

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Learn more about why grandparents matter more than ever to family.

The Importance of Grandparents

According to Dr. Karl Pillemer of Cornell University, the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is second in emotional importance only to the relationship between parent and child. Children benefit when grandparents are involved in their lives. But grandparents also enjoy benefits from the relationship with their grandchildren.

A recent study by Boston College found that “an emotionally close relationship between grandparent and grandchildren is associated with fewer symptoms of depression for both generations.”

Here are 10 reasons grandparents matter more than ever:

1. Grandparents Make Difference in their Grandchildren’s Lives

Involved grandparents can make a big difference in the lives of their grandchildren. More than half of grandparents see their grandchildren in person at least once a week, while 92% of grandparents report having changed a grandchild’s diaper. This time and care manifests itself in healthier happier grandchildren.

Dr. Karl Pillemer of Cornell University wrote, “Research shows that as many as 9 out of 10 adult grandchildren feel their grandparents influenced their values and behaviors. Grandparents transmit to their grandchildren the values and norms of social order.”

A recent AARP survey of grandparents confirms that grandparents are comfortable giving advice to their grandchildren. For example, 78% of grandparents say they have discussed values with their grandchildren. Grandparents can also have a special role teaching family history.

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2. More Children Have Grandparents

As the life expectancy has grown, so have the number of grandparents. While in 1900, less than half of American adolescents had at least two living grandparents, that figure had grown to 90% in 1976.

Today there are about 80 million American grandparents, which is more than a third of the adult population.

3. Intergenerational Households are on the Rise

Across the nation, intergenerational households are on the rise. According to the latest U.S. Census figures, 7.5 million children lived with at least one grandparent, which is more than 10% of the under 18 population.

Today, even the White House is an intergenerational household, with the First Lady’s mother, Marian Shields Robinson, living with the First Family and helping with raising grandchildren.

4. Many Children are Raised by Their Grandparents

According to the same census figures, 2.7 million grandparents provide for the basic needs of a grandchild (are primary caregivers). Even more take care of grandchildren on a regular basis but aren’t primary caregivers.

5. Grandparents Have Spending Power

Grandparents are an economic powerhouse. They control an astounding 75% of the wealth in the U.S.. A good deal of that spending power is put to towards grandchildren.

A survey by MetLife showed grandparents spend an average of $1,700 their grandchildren annually. That support is often used to help pay for childcare or housing for grandchildren.

It also manifests itself as gifts. According to an AARP survey, the most common item for grandparents to by their grandchildren is clothing, and second is books. Fun foods (candy and snacks) and toys were also popular gifts from grandparents.

6. Grandparents Give Back to the Community

The older generations in general are known to be generous with their time and money, and this certainly holds true for grandparents.

Grandparents make 45% of cash donations to nonprofits organizations according to an American Grandparents Association (AGA) survey, and 28% volunteer on a regular basis. What’s more, 15% of grandparents have even volunteered at shelters for homeless adults.

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7. Grandparents Can Use a Computer

Contrary to the myth of the doddering senior who is lost and confused in front of anything that’s electric and has buttons, American grandparents have generally adopted the trappings of the digital age.

More than 75% of grandparents use the internet and nearly half use social media regularly.

8. Grandparents Love their Role

According to an AGA survey, 72% of grandparents “think being a grandparent is the single most important and satisfying thing in their life.”

9. Grandparents Have Valuable Experience

When you think about it for a moment, who could better provide advice and help raising children than someone who has already done it successfully? Grandparents put their past parenting experience to use in their interactions with grandchildren.

The AGA survey indicated 63% of grandparents “say they can do a better job caring for grandchildren than they did with their own.”

10. Today’s Grandparents are Active and Involved

Today’s typical grandparents don’t just sit in rocking chairs with blankets on their laps; they’re active. Reportedly, 43% of grandparents exercise or play sports and 18% dance.

Additionally, 38% of grandparents report having sex at least twice a week. At least 15% have demonstrated for a cause they believe in.

Why do your grandparents matter more than ever to you? Share your story about your relationship with a loved one in the comments below.

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Meet the Author
Jeff Anderson

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