By: Richard J. Anthony, Sr.
The statistics are staggering. Over one-third of this country’s population has the high distinction of being called granny, poppy or something else denoting GRAND status. More than 75% of Americans over age 50 are grandparents, with four grandchildren, on average. Each month 75,000 Americans between the ages of 45 -69 join the grandparents’ club. Fact is, at 73 million, we’re a formidable demographic group. We control over 70% of the nation’s wealth, a hefty $7 trillion. And we spend a whopping $35 billion each year on our grandkids.
All hail to grandparents!
About two out of three of us are lucky enough to see our grandkids every week or two. We have lunch or dinner with them, read to them, go shopping with them, vacation with them, take them to the movies and ball games, go fishing, bake cookies, try out family recipes and play video and board games. Sometimes, they teach us a thing or two, like how to use the Internet, which new gadget to buy or how to search the web to find that 1965 Corvette we day dream about.
Just as we have changed lots of things since the 60s, we’re transforming grandparenting. Most of us haven’t had time to sit for long stretches in rocking chairs, even if we wanted to. We’re still busy holding down jobs, going to school, surfing the Internet, doing volunteer work, managing our investments and starting businesses. Picture this: a 58-year old grandmother running down Main Street, approaching the finish line to the cheers of her four grandchildren on the sidelines chanting “Go Gran. Go Gran.” Could be a Nike commercial.
We’re not as self-centered as we were in our 30s and 40s. For most of us, our grandkids are center stage in our lives. They’re our connection with immortality and they represent our hope for a better place and a better life. They give us another chance to teach, encourage, protect and to be proud of what we’ve contributed. For most of us, regardless of age, leaving a legacy means ethics, morality, faith and religion – not financial inheritance. It’s the lessons, values and examples we leave our grandchildren through the stories we tell and the good times we share with them. It’s not that we’re against leaving tangible things to our grandkids. A majority of us expect to do that. It’s just that the really important things in life tend to rise to the top as we become introspective about life and relationships and connecting the generations.
We’re an independent group of people. Don’t like to be talked down to or doted over. As long as we have our physical health and mental faculties, we insist on making our own decisions about how and where we live, how we spend our money, how we want to be disposed of when it’s our time and what kind of legacy we want to leave. We don’t like being called “seniors” or the “mature market.” We all know they’re code words for OLD. Why not just call us “ripe” or “nearly done” or “in the final stretch”? At least we could have some fun with those epithets.
Many of us are in second-time-around relationships that keep us young and active. We’ve lived through divorce, family strife and the premature death of a spouse and managed to put the pieces of our lives back together, but in many cases it’s a very different picture. For example, after spending decades in payroll jobs, many of us are striking out on our own. At last count, 5.6 million of us over 50 have started our own businesses. And that number is expected to grow as 50+ workers lose their job security and cheaper technology drives down business startup costs. In fact, according to one recent study, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity has been in the 55-64 age group.
Lots of us take care of our parents and are still raising kids.Life’s funny that way. About 8% of us take care of our grandkids every day, and 3% are raising a grandchild. Encore parents. In fact, about six million kids under 18 live with their grandparents. A third of them have no contact with their parents. A pity. And the numbers are growing.
Our greatest concerns for our grandkids are their physical safety and security in a world gone mad, and quality education to prepare them for an uncertain future.To keep them safe, we partner with their parents to make certain that there is always a watchful adult around. We drill them on the same rules we taught our kids. We urge them to stand up under peer pressure to try drugs or get caught up in irresponsible sexual activity. This time around, we approach these uncomfortable subjects with more confidence than when we were young parents.And besides, chances are our grandkids will listen to us over their parents. We’re pretty good at bridging the generation gap.
We value education more than any generation before us.More than half of us attended college. Two-thirds of us expect to pay some part of our grandkids’ education expense, from pre-school right up through a college diploma.
Hallmark makes more than two dozen different Grandparents Day cards to celebrate the special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, including cards for first-timers. The sentiments are expressed differently, but all come down to this: All hail to grandparents!
Mr. Anthony is a consultant, author, teacher, TV producer and entrepreneur. As cofounder of igrandparents.com, he was a pioneer in using the Internet to create a community for the nation’s 73 million grandparents. He and his wife have five children and 15 grandchildren.
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