There are roughly 62.8 million grandparents in the U.S. right now, and projections for the year 2020 are that one in three adults will become grandparents. According to the U.S. census figures released Thursday, nearly 8% — or 5.8 million — of children live with grandparents who identify themselves as head of the household.
That’s a 1.3 million increase from the 2000 census results, and is the largest number in 40 years. It’s the result of a combination of a lagging economy and a growing population of adults over the age of 65.
Hope Yen, a reporter for the Associated Press, elaborates:
The newer grandparents are mainly baby boomers who are still working, with greater disposable income. Now making up 1 in 4 adults, grandparents are growing at twice the rate of the overall population and sticking close to family — if their grandkids aren’t already living with them.
The economic recession has meant job losses for so many Americans over the past few years, but unemployed workers aged 25-34 was double that of the 55-64 age group last year. In fact, incomes of the latter group grew in the past decade, while households headed by the former saw a decline. The U.S. households headed by those aged 55-64 make up nearly half of the nation’s total income. In 2009, those households spent billions of dollars on baby food, toys, clothes, tuition, and other child-related expenses.
“Grandparents have become the family safety net, and I don’t see that changing any time soon,” said Amy Goyer, a family expert at AARP. “While they will continue to enjoy their traditional roles, including spending on gifts for grandchildren, I see them increasingly paying for the extras that parents are struggling to keep up with — sports, camps, tutoring or other educational needs, such as music lessons.”
A recent MetLife survey found that one in four grandparents provided financial support to their grandchildren during the recession, whether or not the kids were in their household. The median amount of spending was $3,000, while the average was $8,661, with the biggest percentages going to costs associated with education or major life events.
The 2010 census results also show that more children are living in single-parent homes, which indicates another reason for grandparent involvement. It is not limited to financial support, either; it can also be something as simple as helping with homework or just reading an age-appropriate book together.
As the editorial board of the Sun Journal of Maine suggests in an opinion piece, it’s a “golden opportunity” to become involved in grandchildren’s lives and “a lifelong inheritance worth more than money.” Those gifts go both ways, too. The Sun Journal piece reminds us that daily brain activity from helping grandchildren with their lessons increases grandparents’ mental agility, too.
You can even ask your grandkids to give you some lessons in return! Some help with computers or video games, maybe? To reiterate a thought I shared on my National Senior Citizens’ Day post a couple of weeks ago, sometimes the most valuable gift we can give to each other is time.
Of course, a tangible present is always nice, too! A column on Patch‘s Parents Talk explores the reasons why grandparents will buy gifts for their grandchildren that they wouldn’t have bought for their own kids. The columnist, Donna Evans, poses the question, “How should parents deal with telling their parents what to buy or not to buy for their kids?,” but let’s flip it around. As grandparents, what are YOUR rules for what to buy or not buy for your grandchildren?
Source: “Grandparents play a bigger role in child-rearing,” Associated Press via Chicago Defender, 08/29/11
Source: “Too Cute to Fail: Grandparents Bailing Out Their Grandchildren,” TIME‘s Moneyland, 08/09/11
Source: “Parents Talk: Not so Fast, Grandma,” Patch‘s Parents Talk, 06/25/11
Source: “Connecting with grandchildren can benefit everyone,” Sun Journal, 07/24/11
Image by josh.ev9 (Josh Evnin), used under it’s Creative Commons license.