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Grandparents are younger than you think - and their habits, working patterns and cultural preferences might surprise you too. The average age of the first-time grandparent is just 49, and someone turning 60 this September will have been 18 in 1977, the year the Sex Pistols released ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’.
We wanted to talk about the Modern Gran and bust a few myths about pearls and twinsets along the way.
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“My husband reads every [paper] he can find online. I take a quick look at the BBC news online and then head for Gransnet! We do watch the evening news on the television, including the local news, but I often have my laptop on at the same time.”
First thing and the Modern Gran is has the news on in the background (Nielsen says majority of older people access the news on TV), while also checking Facebook (6.4 million 55- to 65-year-old-plus regularly use Facebook, the biggest demographic save for 16- to 34-year-olds - eMarketer) and her favourite websites on her mobile (57% access Gransnet via their phones).
“I really only like cereal for breakfast - a creature of habit, that's me! At the moment I'm alternating between porridge and bite sized shredded wheat. Porridge mostly, made with half milk, half water. Sometimes with fresh fruit, or a sprinkling of raisins. And a cup of tea.”
She makes her breakfast consisting of porridge with blueberries and banana. Consumers are eating more fruit (up 8.5%) and porridge (up 7.4%) - Kantar.
“I now find myself really stressed by the day to day recycling. I seem to spend a lot of time sorting stuff, reading what bits can be recycled and worrying that so much still can't be recycled. I know that my grandchildren's future depends on us all doing the best we can to reduce waste and this makes me feel even more stressed.”
She reads the back of the empty oat packet and is frustrated to see it is not recyclable. She is concerned about the environment and worried about her grandchildren’s future. 72% of baby boomers are think it is extremely or very important that companies implement programs to improve the environment, ONS. In fact over 70% of those over 55 are extremely or very concerned about the impact of plastic packaging, compared to around half of the 16-to-34-year-old cohort. Kantar.
“Had I known, when I was 58, that I wouldn't be receiving my pension for another 8.5 years, I would have been able to set up a private pension which may not have yielded much when I retire, but it would have been more than I have now. As it is, my retirement age has been put back every 18 months or 2 years, leaving me with no way of forward planning.”
She heads to work - she is one of the WASPI women who has had her retirement moved with little notification so although she planned to retire earlier, she will be working till she is 66.
“For years I have turned the volume down on TV and radio adverts so that I do not have to listen to the tripe any more. I am also fed up with the way my age group are portrayed as perfect: big homes, huge well-tended gardens, perfect bodies, hair, make-up, teeth etc to go with perfect lifestyles, yachting around the world, cruising etc. I wish ads aimed at any age group were more realistic, showed normal flaws and all people and stopped being so patronising.”
“Using actors under 25 to advertise anti-wrinkle creams is insulting to both sides.”
One of her colleagues recommends a new eye-cream. In our Gransnet survey we found that 77% of respondents reacted positively to a review from a peer (in real life, or online on a forum like Gransnet) while only 35% responded positively to TV advertising. She looks online to find out more but is put off by the 23-year-old, wrinkle-free woman used in the campaign as well as the ‘anti-ageing’ message. (69% say that if advertising was more representative of their age group, they would be more receptive to them (Gransnet survey)
“We used YouTube to help us convert our van into a campervan. DH has taught himself to be a first-class amateur photographer using the professional tutorials.”
“I built a log store out of old pallets following a video put on by a carpenter, saving tens of £££s
Also fixed my combi boiler.”
She gets a notification on her phone about a YouTube video she might like. It’s about creating a raised gardening bed with pallets and she’s keen to give it a go. She checks her weather app to make sure the forecast is clear for the weekend and bookmarks the video as her Saturday project.
“Approaching 60 and retirement, I couldn't stand the thought of being at home together.”
She also absentmindedly wonders if she would even want to go on holiday with him (60% of marriages are expected to end in divorce by the 20th wedding anniversary - ONS).
“It's been wonderful to know I can still have exciting holidays on my own.”
“I quite like travelling alone and not having to compromise on what I do or when I do it.”
“I constantly ask myself why I have stayed for so long. Now I feel my life is a complete mess because I have stayed too long in a dead marriage.”
During her lunch break she catches up on social media. The over 50s are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook (75% of gransnetters have a Facebook account). She also checks Tripadvisor for hotel reviews on an upcoming holiday and compares prices on travel insurance.
She thinks about whether or not she should have one last attempt at convincing her husband to come with her on the holiday or if she should embrace travelling solo.
“We started with a day a week and it built up to three days a week. Then baby number two arrived and before we knew it we were looking after a four month old and a two year old for a joint total of 80 hours per week. We were exhausted!! My husband in nearly 70, I am 60+ and we kept going for three and a half years until we realised neither of the parents realised how ill it was making us.”
Modern Gran leaves to do the school run. In recent years she’s cut back her hours in order to look after her grandchildren. Although she loves spending time with them, she’s finding it increasingly exhausting and knows she’ll have to have an awkward conversation with her son at some stage about her limitations. One in five grandparents who provide childcare have given up work or reduced their working hours to do so. Grandparents save the UK economy £17bn a year in childcare and over half provide childcare for their grandchildren.
“I would spend more than I do on my grandson if my husband didn't put a stop to my gallop. I make my son a small pocket money allowance each month and pop him the odd £20 when I see him.”
“I worked abroad for years, and earned enough to agree to most requests. The request to finance a school ski trip to the tune of £2000 stopped me dead in my tracks though!”
She takes her grandchildren to buy new school shoes. Aside from mostly free childcare, grandparents also contribute financially to families - from mortgages to clothing to after school lessons. Nearly one in five (18%) pay for school uniform - Gransnet
“I have just had a lovely 10 minute Facetime call with DD and DGS, aged 10 months. Lovely to see his happy smiling face but OMG the close up of the wrinkly, puffy eyed, jowly old bag in the corner of the screen. Who or what was that?!”
“I won't see my daughter pregnant or be around until after the baby is born. We will go out for a holiday after that, but essentially are going to see this child and any others once a year for a few weeks. I know we have Facetime but it just isn't the same.“
Modern Gran FaceTimes her adult daughter who lives in New York so that she can speak to her other grandchildren and the children can wish their cousin a happy birthday. She realises that in her circle of friends, long distance grandparenting is becoming more common, although thanks to social media and video calling it is easier for families to stay in touch.
“My teenage DGS could put a dvd on when he was two! The younger DGC have iPad time and games for the computer. Nothing wrong with it IMHO. This is the world we live in now, and technology is moving on all the time. It would only be a problem if children never did anything else, like sports.”
She helps her young granddaughter download a spelling app on her tablet and the two of them spend a good half hour making and testing out word searches while her eldest grandson is engrossed with his gaming. Grandparents are much less likely to leave children unattended with a computer or device, but are sometimes running to catch up with relatively new technology such as livestreaming within online gaming or apps. (Gransnet and Internet Watch Foundation).
“The children help tidy up. ( I do most of the tidying, but it’s good for them to think they’re helping.) Even if they are picked up earlier than I was expecting it doesn’t take long to clear up all the toys and books into their baskets. Then I sweep up, tidy the cushions, pour a nice glass of wine and relax.”
The grandkids have gone home and Modern Gran eschews her Pilates class (almost half of Brits over the age of 55 don’t believe that exercise is an important part of lifestyle - Nuffield Health) and instead collapses on the sofa with her own dinner.
“The contestants looked like they didn't quite make Love Island and diverted to GBBO instead? What the heck has happened? Pink Jumper Woman reminded me of Rosamund Pike on a banned substance.”
GBBO is on and Modern Gran pours herself a cheeky glass of wine (drinkers aged 65+ years drink more frequently than any other group but young people drink more units on a single occasion - DrinkAware). And she’ll stay on her sofa for some time (86% of gransnetters spend upwards of an hour per day watching TV - Gransnet).
Poldark and Who Do You Think You Are proved to be the most popular shows in recent months (Gransnet), although Love Island found a few fans too. She goes to make a cup of tea during the advert break as the ads are predictably infuriating and don’t resonate with her despite her demographic’s enviable spending power (78% of older people feel under or misrepresented in advertising - Gransnet research).
“I had the lot thrown at me once I'd turned 50. Chronic migraines after a hot sweat, sleeplessness, looking after a terminally ill husband and a full-time job in the NHS - as well as seeing to two GC when my D's marriage broke-up!”
Modern Gran heads to bed with a good book. She knows she’ll be up at some point during the night and although she’s tried every remedy for insomnia, she’s found having something to read helps.
“I was just at the point of giving up after many disastrous dates when I finally met someone very nice and have been dating him for over seven months. So far, so good. So, as long as you are prepared to be extremely patient and not give up, it can be successful.”
Her friend texts to tell her how her date is going. The friend was having dinner with someone she’d met on an online dating site so had requested a check-in later in the evening. There are 80 million single men and women over 50 around the world (Evening Standard) and almost 30% of those on Gransnet are single.
“Imagine getting to 16 and finding out you've got loving grandparents that you were never allowed to know but they remembered you every birthday and Christmas?”
Modern Gran is awake, worrying about her son and new granddaughter from whom she is estranged. Around 14% of gransnetters have been estranged and 57% if those who’ve been estranged say that it has made them feel down. After much tossing and turning she eventually drifts off only to start it all again the next morning.
Images (unless otherwise specified): Shutterstock