Grand lessons

I crawled into the gym this morning without being sure of what I was going to do and how I was going to try and shake the cobwebs off. Tress was a bit under the weather and for a little while I felt I too, wasn’t in the best of health.

In the gym however, I listened to the ever vibrant Ross and John on 3AW and they were asking listeners what was the most valuable thing their grandparents taught them.

I didn’t have to try very hard to recall what my late paternal grandfather taught me which while I valued greatly, I have yet to be able to put into practice effectively. One he did by action – the family altar he religiously (pun intended) adhered to – and the other he said in a speech during my wedding, which was to do everything possible to make a difference to our (Tress and mine) community.

The latter was a call to live less selfishly. He must have picked up the trend amongst young people then (21 years ago) to focus on their own careers and their own nuclear families, without considering how to live for their communities.

I recall making a decision to help people around us, when things finally settled down for us here in Melbourne back in 2007. We’ve moved into our own home, Kiddo’s moved into MacRobertson High, and Tress and I had both settled down into our jobs. We felt it was time for us to consider giving. The best possible way to give back to the community was through the church and so we decided to “take the plunge”.

Alas, we’ve been booted out of the pool now. My grandfather’s call remains unheeded.

Grandparents set to become a thing of the past as older parents lead to ‘grand orphans’

Petra Starke, News Limited Network

April 29, 2013

 Parents who begin a family much later in life may limit the interaction their children have with aging grandparents who may struggle to keep up.

•Older parents limit the capacity for some to care for grandkids

•Could change face of traditional grandparenting

•Caring for young children gets physically harder with age

AUSTRALIA could be heading toward a generation of “grand-orphans” as societal trends turn grandparenting into an endangered institution.

 ..With an increasing number of women delaying childbirth until their late 30s and 40s more people are becoming grandparents at an older age, limiting their capacity to care for grandchildren.

In 2011, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported a record 12,800 babies born to women over 40, up from just 7100 in 2001, with the median age for Australian mothers sitting at 30.6.

A 40-year-old mother who has to wait the average 30.6 or 40 years for her child to become a parent will be 70 or 80 by the time she herself becomes a grandparent, something Queensland University of Technology social psychologist Associate Professor Evonne Miller says is undoubtedly changing the face of traditional grandparenting.

“The reality is that the trend towards late motherhood is likely to change the role of grandparents and how they interact with their grandchildren,” she said.

“Caring and interacting with a baby or toddler is typically much more physically taxing for someone in their late 70s, 80s and 90s than at age 50 or 60.”

Ms Miller said other societal factors such as marriage breakdowns and geographical separation were also helping to redefine the role of the grandparent.

“Rather than frequent face-to-face visits, contemporary grandparents – especially those who live overseas or interstate – will use technology such as Skype and Facebook to interact with their grandchildren,” she said.

“Instead of daily or weekly visits, grandparents may instead visit for extended times or take holidays together – it is about redefining our expectations about the role of grandparents in families.”

Director of Grandparents Australia Anne McLeish said while women shouldn’t feel pressured to have children earlier, they should realise the limitations delaying childbirth might place on their own parents.

Parents need to continue to make the decision that’s best for them but they have to understand at the same time that if they delay having children too late then it does limit the help that they can expect from the grandparents,” she said.

“There are going to be a lot of children who miss out on the traditional grandparenting role as a result of marriage breakdown, relocation and losing contact with grandparents altogether.”

That trend is being reflected in the skyrocketing popularity of Find-A-Grandparent, an online service that matches Australian families in need with “surrogate grandparents”.

Director Cate Kloos, who launched the service last year to find a surrogate for her own two children, said she is desperate to recruit more grandparents to meet the demand from families.

“We have heaps of families registered but we could have heaps more if there were more grandparents to go around,” she said.

“We get emails from interested families almost every day, but we have to turn them away. There’s definitely a huge demand from families.”

With Ms Kloos’ and her husband Gerold’s own parents living in Germany, their children Amelie, 5, and Luca, 3, now have a surrogate grandparent in Irene Sills, 75.

“It’s really good because she only lives a couple of houses away from us so we can pop in and see her regularly, she’s become part of the family,” Ms Kloos said.