If you are a baby boomer, chances are you are also a grandparent. And the reason I'm so sure about that statement is I just learned from a Pew Research Center study that 83 percent of Americans over the age of 65 have grandchildren. What this means is that 37 percent of households nationwide are headed by grandparents, and the number of homes that include grandparents and grandchildren is increasing at twice the average rate of U.S. households overall. In fact, in 2015, that number exceeded 50 million. Plus, 67 percent of those baby boomers with grandchildren have at least four of them. But when we factor in people between 50 and 64 years old, those two statistics drop to 52 percent and 47 percent.
Grandparents in Germany and Italy, however, are actually more likely than we are to provide regular childcare for grandchildren. Why? Seniors in the U.S. are more likely to still be in the labor force than older Germans or Italians, and we also receive less financial support from the government than our European counterparts.
Today's grandparents — as opposed to the ones populating Norman Rockwell paintings — are younger than ever before. According to Grandparents.com, the website of the American Grandparents Association, 43 percent of today's grandparents earned that title while in their 50s, and 37 percent while in their 40s. The average age of grandparents in the U.S. is 48. This age shift accounts for the fact that this older segment of the population is surprisingly up to speed. In fact, 75 percent of us are online, and 45 percent of us are on social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Yahoo. And here's a statistic our own grandparents would have never believed: Thirty-three percent of us have been married more than once; fifteen percent of us have demonstrated for a cause; and 10 percent of us have a tattoo.
A significant number of grandparents who live with a grandchild (this group would include over 7 million) actually serve as that child's primary caregiver. But the fact that over 5 percent of all U.S. households are now multigenerational doesn't reflect the economic impact that seniors have on the American economy. We have the highest average net worth ($254,000) of any other age group, and we earn the highest average income. Essentially, baby boomer grandparents control 75 percent of this country's wealth.
And much of our discretionary income spending often goes to help support our adult children and/or our grandchildren. Experts have estimated that $52 billion is spent every year on grandchildren-related expenses that range from day care to education to health care to housing.
Helping to raise a grandchild is not considered to be as stressful or onerous as it once was. In fact, according to grandparents:
—Sixty-three percent say they can do a better job of caring for their grandchildren than they did with their own offspring.
—Sixty-eight percent think that being a grandparent has brought them closer to their own adult children.
—Seventy-two percent feel that being a grandparent is the single most important and satisfying thing in their life.
—Ninety percent enjoy talking about their grandkids to anyone who will listen!
If you happen to be a grandparent who does not live with a grandchild, like me, the statistics below will be of interest. When it comes to these grandparents:
—Eighty-one percent have their grandkids for part or all of their summer vacation.
—Seventy percent see the kids at least once a week.
—Sixty-six percent travel with their grandkids.
—Sixty percent live close to their grandchildren.
—Forty-six percent wish they could live even closer.
Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir "One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes." She can be reached at www.marilynwillison.com. To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.