One of the biggest societal implications of people living longer is that the ratio of grandparents to grandchildren is now higher than it’s ever been before (including great-grandchildren as well, of course). And since grandparents are more healthy and ‘younger’ than grandparents have ever been, they can get involved in raising their grandchildren.
This will free up parents. It could also be a way of generating income for older people and it can shape societies and communities in new and interesting ways.
It’s Thursday, my name’s Graeme Codrington, and if you want to think about the future, you’re in the right place.
Today in Throw Forward Thursday, I’d like to take us to the age of grandparents. Now, already, the ratio between the number of grandparents and grandchildren is as big as it has ever been in human history. That’s another way of saying that we live in an ageing world where people are living longer and that they’re not just surviving as old people longer, they’re being younger, longer than ever before. And I think there are three major implications for grandparents.
The first is that, if possible, grandparents are going to have a much more significant role to play in the lives of their grandchildren, even possibly their great-grandchildren, and they are going to be able to connect with them and engage, especially in those early years that are so important. They’re going to be able to help the parents during their work careers, fetching kids, taking them to school, doing extra lessons, and offering childcare services. And again, where possible, this is going to have a huge impact on those families, freeing up the mothers, in particular, to be a lot more involved in work opportunities and the workplace.
This is going to change families, communities, and societies in tremendous ways. It might even be going back to the future into a more extended family unit in terms of how we raise our children, moving away from the nuclear family of just parents and children that has been familiar in the Western world for the last 60 or 70 years only.
Now, the second implication to that is should grandparents be doing all of this for free. It’s a significant service offered to society and maybe the grandparents themselves have saved enough money, they’ve got a good retirement plan in place, and so they don’t need any funding, and that would be fantastic. But they’re going to be a lot of people who are living longer than they thought they would have not prepared enough for that and so they are going to be running out of money and looking to supplement whatever retirement income they get.
Now, maybe providing childcare services could be a great supplemental income and either the state needs to step up in states where there are social security nets, that may be an option, providing either tax relief or straight-out payment for childcare services and particularly targeting the grandparent generation to do that. Or families themselves might need to think again beyond the nuclear family concept and realise that if the father and mother are freed up to work because the grandparents are able to take over some of the childcare, requirements, or then share some of the income that the mother and father can generate, in other words, paying the grandparents for their services, might well be worth it for them. These are decisions families need to make and possibly interesting/difficult conversations for families to have but maybe we need to normalise those.
And that then leads to the third implication I thought of, and that is what happens if you would like to have a grandparent involved, but your grandparents are not available. Either they’ve passed on, they have ill health, or maybe geographically, you are distanced from them, or the other way around, you’re a grandparent who would like to contribute, but you are not in contact with your own grandchildren. And I think this is a fascinating implication for society where maybe it’s pushing it too far to say, rent a grandparent, rent a grandpa, rent a grandma. I don’t mean it in such a way that it’s just a financial implication. But there might be societies and communities.
These might be mediated via schools or via the faith communities that people are part of, where you put in touch willing parents and children with willing grandparents and put them into connection with each other. We might even set up institutions and structures and systems where maybe we link old age homes with childcare and nursery facilities that’s been trialled in Brazil and the UK with tremendous benefit and good effect.
So, the age of grandparents is coming with more and more grandparents being available in the world. What will they do? Besides living their own lives and contributing to society and the economy, they may be able to act as grandparents, possibly even professionally. I don’t think this is too far in the future, and it’s certainly something we need to be thinking about.
Thanks, as always for joining me in The ThrowForward studio. If you’d like to connect with our team, please do please go to askaboutthefuture.com. You can leave any messages there for us and we’ll pick them up and respond to you. Otherwise, don’t forget that you can join my Future’s Club at jointhefuturesclub.com, which will give you access to even more insights into the future and resources to help you to think like a futurist.
Otherwise, have a great week, and make sure that you send lots of love and best wishes to all the grandparents in your world.
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Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.
For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.