A 2006 article in the New York Times entitled “Here Comes the Great-Grandparents” discussed, with some concern, the increasing population of great-grandparents. Kevin Kinsella, with the Aging Studies Branch of the United States Census Bureau was quoted as calling it the “Great-Grandparent Boom.” Not a very surprising term considering these same Great-Grandparents produced the “Baby Boomer Generation” who themselves are now becoming grandparents.
It seemed that those studying the growing numbers of Great-grandparents are worried that their growing numbers will increase a burden on our society, especially in health costs. The interesting thing is that those in that growing population in their 80s and 90s are the relatively healthy of their generations: considering the alternative.
What really is so disturbing, no one really knows the numbers of the growing great-grandparent population. To quote the article:
“No one seems to be keeping track of the number of great-grandparents: not the U.S. Census Bureau, the National institute of Aging or the AARP.”
Mr. Kinsella said the census bureau does not even know how many grand parents there are, let alone great-grand parents. Recently the US Census Bureau created a plus 100-age category.
It seems that those in-between retirement and centenary mark are being discounted, or at the very least being undercounted. The centurions amongst us may not all even be great- grandparents, living that long their children and grandchildren may not have survived them. Also as marriage these days is put off till women’s biological clocks are setting off alarms our children are having their children at a later age. Grandparents like me will most likely not have the pleasure of living to see our great-grandchildren
To quote the article:
“Demographers agree that the American Family trees today often resemble a bean pole: thin (because there are fewer children in each generation) and long (because there are more living generations).”
In my book “IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU: A Grandparents Guide to Surviving Divorce in the Family,I take a more positive position. I look at the American Family Trees as looking more like totem poles than bean poles.
“It is very natural to place us (grandparents) on the bottom of the pole like the older generations who preceded us, in a position appropriately symbolizing the weight-bearing task we will carry for the generations that follow.”
Regardless of how we describe the grandparent generations, tall and lean at the top of a beanpole or wide and strong on the base of a totem pole, it is time for official statistics to be gathered about the living grandparent generations, rather than leaving geriatric professionals to gather facts based on extrapolated figures. We need to be effectively and correctly counted. Once officially collected, the scholars studying the grandparent generations may find that the problems of our elderly stem from health issues not age and they can use the knowledge gained to recommend ways that quality of life can be improved. The information may also be useful in determining how families can best be enriched by grandparents and also as mentors and/or volunteers outside the family. It also might be useful to look at the communities that utilize their elderly population effectively and how the most successful programs can be developed in other areas.
Keeping count of our “grands” can’t be that difficult. Surely our census can include questions to keep track of our seniors every ten years: after all they included questions about indoor plumbing for years. Also why can’t our Social Security Administration send out questionnaires ever year or two to all the seniors receiving social security checks? The information gathered would prove to be invaluable in the years ahead and possibly might uncover benefits going to recipients that have passed away and been unreported. Certainly collecting those discovered errors would help defray the costs. And why in this day of computers doesn’t the issuing of a death certificate issued for someone over 64 generate a report to the Social Security Administration.
Even if such record keeping starts today, those who need such records will be very sorry the count was not begun along time ago. It is definitely time to start counting our “GRANDS” and “GREATS”—– IN NOT — OUT!