New research shows the value of grandparenting

If you’re a grandparent you know the value of your contribution both economically and socially, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the significant contribution grandparents make.

National Seniors Australia has released new research on the grandparenting activities of older Australians revealing some interesting new findings.

The research was released as part of a major report called Australian Grandparents Care and follows a recent report into unpaid care.

The data has noted the impact COVID-19 has had on the care grandparents provide, by the hole it’s left because of older Australians having to socially isolate and therefore being unable to look after their grandchildren.

National Seniors CEO Professor John McCallum describes grandparenting as being like ‘intergenerational LEGO’. It meets many different needs and is a very flexible service.

“It links the generations strongly and this was taken apart during the COVID-19 shutdown and is being put back together as social restrictions ease.”

Among the research findings were:

  • More than a quarter of older Australians were providing regular care for grandchildren
  • The average hours spent grandparenting were 12 hours per week with women working more hours than men
  • People providing grandparenting services were typically aged 60-79 years
  • Those grandparenting tended to be better off and healthier than others
  • Male grandparents were more likely to be in a partnership - only 7% of grandfathers doing grandparenting duties were single, compared to 43% of grandmothers
  • Overall women and men who were partnered were the most likely to be grandparenting
  • One quarter of those grandparenting were also caring for another person over the age of 12 years
  • A smaller group was identified as the ‘sandwich group’ who cared for both grandchildren and their own aged parents.

Some participants in the research gave positive descriptions of the grandparenting experience such as: ‘love’, ‘joy’, ‘a privilege’ and ‘excitement’.

The research also found that people clearly distinguished grandparenting from actual parenting including descriptions such as: ‘passing on wisdom’, ‘connectedness’, ‘financial savings for families’, ‘sharing life experiences’ and ‘feeling vital’.

However, there were some negative descriptions where respondents described: ‘being used’, ‘obligated’, ‘having no choice’, ‘excessive demands’, ‘feeling undervalued’, ‘high personal sacrifice’ and ‘financial costs of caring’.

COVID-19 has also highlighted the significance of grandparenting because the shutdown prevented it and left major gaps in childcare and education.

“Grandparenting is an intergenerational gift to families and the nation,” said Professor McCallum.

“It will become even more important as many families face financial hardship and the Government deals with the COVID-19 deficit.”

Professor McCallum says grandparenting will remain one of the many ways older people can make social and economic contributions to new generations of Australians.

“Like LEGO it can be taken apart and reconnected as times change, for example, as we come out of the COVID-19 shutdown. If supported and sustained it will continue to provide very significant economic value.”

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