Grandparents keep economy flowing

Published Aug. 31, 2004|Updated Aug. 28, 2005

(ran Citrus, Hernando editions)

Grandparenting, say the experts, isn't what it used to be _ especially when Grandma's in spandex and Grandpa's on inline skates.

Today's grandparents spend about $30-billion a year on grandkids. And that's not the dollars they sock away for future college educations.

They buy rocking chairs and cribs, too, and give adult children house down payments when grandchildren start arriving.

Then they take those little ones on trips. Expensive trips.

Katherine Khalife, publisher of and the Museum Marketing Tips e-newsletter, is quoted in a newsletter as saying, "Grandparents traveling with their grandkids accounted for one in every five trips taken with children in the year 2000. Six-million Americans reported vacationing with their grandchildren in a typical month."

The industry calls it "grandtravel."

Then there is a nationwide survey of 1,500 grandparents, all AARP members, that found that 84 percent of grandparents take the kids out to dinner and 75 percent go shopping with them.

All of this makes sense to Allan Zullo, co-author with his wife, Kathryn, of The Nanas and the Papas: A Boomer's Guide to Grandparenting (Andrews McMeel, 2004).

"Boomers don't want to just buy things for grandkids: They want to share experiences," Zullo says. "They would rather take a trip, go to the zoo, let the grandkids experience their passions."

We're younger in our activities and attitudes, healthier, better educated and wealthier than most of our own grandparents were, Zullo says.

We're also pioneering a new form of grandparenting. Many of us are still working, and some of us are caring for our parents and younger children when grandkids arrive. We have blended families of stepparents and grandparents.

But the best part is the way we have turned grandparenting from just a time of life into a ritual.

We host "sip and see" parties when the grandkids come to visit _ "Do come over for wine and cheese and meet little Joey."

Zullo talks about "grandparent showers" to help new grandparents acquire the stash they need to entertain the little ones _ from a crib to some toys.

Thank God our children are having children. If it weren't for us, the economy would flounder.

Jane Glenn Haas is the author of "Time of Your Life: Why Almost Everything Gets Better After Fifty."