All Hail to Grandparents (a.k.a. Boomers)

The statistics are staggering. More than 75 percent of Americans over age 50 are grandparents, with four grandchildren, on average. At 73 million, we control more than 70 percent 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 meals with them, play with them and vacation with them. Sometimes they teach us a thing or two, like which new gadget to buy or how to search the Web to find that 1965 Corvette we daydream about.

Just as we have changed lots of things since the ’60s, we’re transforming grandparenting. We’re still busy holding down jobs, going to school, doing volunteer work, managing our investments and starting businesses. According to one recent study, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity has been in the 55-64 age group.

We’re not as self-centered as we were in our 40s and 50s. For most of us, our grandkids are center stage in our lives. They give us another chance to teach, encourage, protect and be proud of what we’ve contributed. For most of us, leaving a legacy means more than a financial inheritance (although a majority of us expect to give one): It’s the lessons, values and examples we leave our grandchildren through the stories we tell and the good times we share with them.

We’re an independent group of people. Don’t like to be talked down to or doted on. 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. We don’t like being called “seniors” or the “mature market.” We all know they’re code words for OLD.
Lots of us take care of our parents and are still raising kids. About 8 percent of us take care of our grandkids every day, and 3 percent are raising a grandchild. In fact, about five 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. 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 encourage them to stand up under peer pressure that urges them to try drugs or 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.

There are more than two dozen different Grandparents Day cards from Hallmark that celebrate the special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. The various sentiments all come down to this: All hail to grandparents!

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