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Grandparents - How you can benefit in retirement

When our working lives were more "local" to where we had been born and grown up, family members were able to rely on each other for help. People rarely moved from the surrounding area and extended family was always available in times of need or emergency. Nowadays, people have to move all over the country and even to other countries to find work or to achieve the success they are looking for in their profession. Whilst this has made the world a much smaller place, it can also mean isolation of some family members. This not only relates to the older, retired generation now living in isolation in their home town/village, but also young families with no older family member nearby.

So many parents these days have no choice but for them both to go out to work and there are also many more one-parent families, so people have to leave their children with child-minders, but what if they had a grandparent nearby? Once we've been lucky enough to have a family and bring them up to have a family of their own, we can enjoy the benefits of being a grandparent. We can enjoy our grandchildren, but can also "give them back" at the end of the day/visit! It goes without saying that we may find young children tiring as we get older, but the support to young parents can be invaluable.

Grandparents can be a friend to their grandchildren if they need some support with issues they don't want to talk to their parents about. Often retired grandparents are more astute when listening to their grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren, because they are not caught up in the bustle of working/washing/cooking etc on a daily basis. When both parents work, there is so little time left after organising the basics, whereas a retired grandparent can give more time to a child and can catch up on their chores later or on another day. They can guide them when the children's parents don't have the time, or simply listen to what has been happening during the child's day. It is important to young people that they are listened to, especially in this day and age when bulling is such a problem. Perhaps a child could be saved from endless days of heartache if someone realised what was happening sooner. Retired Grandparents can be there in an emergency for a host of childhood illnesses, like chicken pox, or be available for a day when their school has a training day. The possibilities are endless, from a few minutes to many hours, but the need is there too.

If your own grandchildren are far away, there is still a way to be a support to the young people in your neighbourhood - how about being a grandparent to a neighbour's child? Obviously in this case, a close friendship with the parents is necessary first, as most parents would not entrust their child to a stranger. It would be an idea to contact your local Social Services first, as they can make the necessary legal checks beforehand to give assurances that someone is responsible. Another tragic circumstance these days is the attacks on children by strangers, so it makes sense to be able to prove your worthiness first.

I realise that many older people will feel that they have already "done their bit" but helping a child does not have to be a full-time occupation and the benefit of doing something for someone else brings it's own rewards.


Author: Heather Rudge 29/11/05
Part-time researcher with a specific interest in the older generation.

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