Grandparent Myths

Skillful artistic family is painting together on canvas. The grandfather and the girl are smiling

Skillful artistic family is painting together on canvas. The grandfather and the girl are smiling

We all know the population is ageing, and that the baby boomer generation makes up a significant portion of the population.  However, along with a change in our population’s demographics, comes a change in with the makeup of our society.  Recently, an American company did a comprehensive survey of the stereotypes around grandparents and found that there are a few which need to be discarded.

Grandparents used to be dear little grey-haired ladies who smelled of lavender and pinched cheeks, and stooped little old men smoking pipes and reading newspapers. Nowadays, Grandma and Grandad are far more likely to be active, working in some capacity and going to concerts. The survey found that 54 percent of grandparents were younger than 65, and 80 percent were younger than 75.

73 percent of mothers become grandmothers by age 55, while 67 percent of fathers were grandfathers by then.

Given that we are constantly being told that 60 is the new 50, or 40 is the new 30, we need to ditch the stereotype that grandparents are ‘old.’

This also busts the myth that grandchildren are young – the generation gaps are closing. As of the end of the 20th century, official estimates are that more than 75 percent of 30-year-olds had a living grandparent, and more than 20 percent of 40-year-olds did.

At the beginning of the 20th century, it was a very different story. When people didn’t live as long, grandparents were a scarcer commodity – in 1900, only 21 percent of 30-year-olds had a living grandparent and a mere 1 percent of 40-year-olds did.

The next myth is that needs to be dispelled is that grandparents play a smaller role in children’s lives than they used to. Demographer Peter Uhlenberg of the University of North Carolina says that “it is likely that grandparents play a more significant role in the lives of children now than ever before in history.”

Due to increases in longevity in the developed world, children have more grandparents than they used to, and due to decreases in family size, grandparents have fewer grandchildren, which means they can lavish more resources on each of them, he explains.

Moreover, since more mothers are working and more parents are single, “older family members are an increasingly important source of financial, instrumental, and emotional support.” Statistics published in 2013 say that one-quarter of all kids under five and 14 percent of kids ages 5 to 14, are watched by a grandparent at least once a week.

Historically, it has been believed that grandparents depend on their adult children for financial support, but times they have a’changed; many adult children depend on their parents to help them pay the bills.

Uhlenberg says, “older people are frequently using part of their pension income to assist children and grandchildren who have needs.” Some 62 percent of grandparents help support their grandchildren financially, either directly or through gifts to the middle generation, according to the study.


After the war, sharing a home or living close to adult parents was commonplace and then declined sharply, leading to an assumption that families tend to spread far apart geographically. Between 1992 and 2012, the share of children who lived with a grandparent rose from 7 to 10 percent. Researchers attribute this surge both to increased longevity among grandparents and to financial distress among parents.


So there you have it, a few common myths about grandparents, that we need no longer believe. Do you have any others Please leave them in the comments below!