The average age of a first-time grandparent is 48-and in a couple years, 60% of all grandparents will be Boomers. Believe it or not, that’s the average, not youngest. There are a lot of grandparents actually younger than 48. With today’s life expectancy of 77.9 years, they may have as many as 30 years of grandparenting ahead of them. There are 70 million grandparents in the United States today, representing 1/3rd of the US adult population- and heading 37% of all households.
Because of the higher mortality rate for men, grandparents are disproportionately female. And today’s grandmothers are different from any generation of grandmothers that have come before them. Jean Giles-Sims, a sociologist as Texas Christian University specializing in grandparenting, describes today’s grandmothers, “I call them ‘empowered.’ And they’ve got much more money.”
The Boomer woman of today has changed the face of grandmothering. At 48-and 58 and 68-she is no longer the ever-available babysitting, watching Laugh-In reruns with her knitting on her lap. She’s too busy working, hanging out with friends, hiking and biking, taking computer classes and going to the latest Eric Clapton or Paul McCartney concert. She enjoys having the little ones around-and enjoys having the little ones go home. And she’s unapologetic about it all.
The Boomer grandmother of today is just as likely to be like Christine Crosby, founder of GRAND magazine, who skates, does yoga and videoconferences with her grandchildren. GRAND has featured celebrity grandparents on the cover such as Martin Sheen, Cokie Roberts, Goldie Hawn and Paul McCartney. It’s a great resource for learning about the intergenerational issues of today, with toy and book reviews, vitality and wellness, fiscal fitness and financial insights and so on. Since it’s 2004 launch, circulation has increased to 250,000, signaling a definite interest in the new definition of grandparenthood for Boomers.
Today’s grandparents are going all out in terms of developing lasting relationships with their grandchildren because they are looking back at their busy workaholic Boomer lives and realizing some of the things they gave up. Their need to leave a legacy comes on strong with their own children’s children.
The Power of Grandmother’s Purse
In the 2012 AARP Modern Grandparents study, we see a majority of grandparents spend $250-$1000+ on their grandchildren each year, with 55% saying the economy has not affected their spending. From the AARP’s 2002 Grandparent Study, here are some of the reasons grandparents spend money on their grandchildren:
Today’s Boomer woman helps with piano lessons, takes the kids to Disneyworld, introduces them to the theatre and takes them out to eat. She travels to see them. She contributes mightily to their college funds. One grandmother I know bought her newborn grandchild 100 shares of GE stock and has purchased shares as gifts for every birthday and Christmas.
This speaks to the exponential influence that the Boomer woman will continue to have on their families, immediate and extended. We heard echoes of this in our PrimeTime Woman research. Here’s an example from Willia, age 67:
“I do a lot for my kids. My oldest granddaughter is going to school, and I am going to help pay for that.”
As marketing professionals consider this delightful life stage for Boomer women, they must understand the reality of the active, caring, robust grandparents of today. Life is grand as a grandma-and Boomer women expect you to know who she really is.