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The New Reality of Today’s Grandparent

The New Reality of Today’s Grandparent

Did you know that Canada is home to an astounding 7.1 million grandparents — the largest number ever in our country’s history? Along with this fact, some research shows that all these seniors are also living healthier and longer lives. This statistic alone suggests that they, as a demographic, are changing the makeup of the modern Canadian family. This is according to a CTVNews.ca report published on October 19, 2017.

Who Are They?

The CTV News report featured two grandparents. They include a woman named Marjorie Leslie, aged 62 and her husband Milton Wong, 64. They absolutely adore their grandson, devoting several hours every week to babysitting and caring for the two-year-old. Marjorie is quoted as saying: “I love being a grandparent,” and “It [grandparenting] has brought so much joy to our lives.”

According to the report, Rachel Margolis, a sociology researcher at Western University in London, Ont. recently completed one of the first studies in Canada and the U.S. on the huge shift in “healthy grandparenthood” – that period during which grandparents and grandchildren are both fit and well and can build strong relationships with each other.

Margolis found that although today’s parents are delaying having their children and becoming parents later in life, the length of time a grandparent plays his or her role is also getting longer – Why? Because most seniors are living longer, too.

Family Life Is Extended

Margolis’ study found that middle-aged fathers now could expect to be grandparents for 19 years, with at least 14 of those years as a “healthy” grandfather. Middle-aged mothers can expect to be “healthy” grandmothers for 23 years. The end result is that being a “healthy and active” grandparent for a longer stretch of time means that the offspring of their children, the grandkids, get to enjoy more time with their grandparents. This extended “time” allows many grandparents to build close and lasting relationships with their grandchildren.

“Grandparents have significantly more healthy years overlapping with grandchildren than they did two decades ago,” she wrote, along with co-author Laura Wright, of the University of Saskatchewan.

Margolis admits that her own grandparents and the influences they brought into her life as a youngster and eventually as a young woman inspired her. Although two grandparents had died before she was born, the other two lived well into her adulthood – one dying when she was in her 20s and the other when she was in her 30s.

“I feel like my grandparents offered a lot of support for development. I was close to them well into adulthood,” she says, adding that they pushed her academically and encouraged her to shoot for the top universities.

A child whose life includes a grandparent or more reaps some substantial benefits. Recent studies indicate that grandchildren with emotionally engaged grandparents develop “better social behavior and do better at school”.

Families With Benefits

Not only do the grandkids benefit, young parents do, too — reaping the rewards this growing senior demographic provides. It was noted in the study that: “grandparents give them (parents) a break from childcare during their critical career-building years”. Being able to focus on one’s future without childcare worries and expenses early in a parent’s life has many benefits: peace of mind, being one of them.

Reciprocal Benefits

One thing is also true. Not only are the kids benefiting from having healthy, fit grandparents involved in their daily lives. Leslie, our case study grandmother, says her grandkids “help to motivate her and her husband to keep fit and active”, which makes her (and him) better able to play and interact with them.

“You want to know you are still strong enough to run around and teach him all the things you want to,” says Marjorie Leslie.