The number of grandparents raising grandkids surged during the Great Recession. In 2011, according to a Pew Research Center report, grandparents were the main caregivers for more than 3 million children. There are still many reasons why this is necessary today – military service, untimely death, incarceration, substance abuse, mental illness or problems with layoffs and foreclosures.
The second Sunday in September is always Grandparents’ Day. But every day is a good time to celebrate caring across the generations. For many of us growing up, our grandparents were the ones who gave us whatever we wanted, as long as we didn’t tell our parents. And as the grandma of five grandsons, I’d say that still applies today.
There’s a buzz about Granny leave for women caring for elderly parents. American businesses stand to lose close to $34 billion a year due to employees taking time off to care for aging loved ones. As the number of family members available to care for loved ones decreases and the number of those in need increases, our society is facing serious social issues.
How do we honor intergenerational relationships, highlight aging with dignity and demonstrate the growing need to support caregivers?
Lots of Millennials, with huge student loans and no jobs are boomeranging back home. As the first generation to grow up with terrorism, the Internet and globalization, they’ve developed a thoughtful approach to navigating a chaotic world. According to the 2011 Millennial Impact Report, three quarters of them donate money to charitable causes and almost two thirds volunteer their time.
So how about reconciling the growing need for caregiving by pairing available millennials with grandparents who would love the emotional connection. The bonus? A new study shows that a good relationship between grandparents and their adult grandkids may bring emotional benefits – specifically fewer depressive symptoms – to both.
Grandparents in the study who were able to give back tangible support had the biggest boost in mental wellbeing. Of course, we all like to have a sense of purpose and feel needed, worthwhile, and independent.
So let grandma share her best recipes, write a birthday check, give you that family heirloom. Ask grandpa about life and learn as he tells you stories about his successes and failures. You’ll see that a two-way supportive relationship can be a win/win for everyone.