Today’s grandparents, many of whom are boomers, are different from grandparents of past generations in many ways. But one common thread unites them, especially this time of year. The warm glow many feel during the holiday season is stoked by the family hearth.
“The biggest mood boost that they have was a visit from family,” says Susan Kostman, chief nursing officer for health-insurer Aetna. Along with grandparents.com, Aetna conducted a wide-ranging survey to find out how today’s grandparents feel about a number of subjects, including health, family issues, retirement and technology.
“The lifestyle now is very different than what we would have imagined earlier,” Kostman says. For example, only 49.2 percent of the grandparents responding to the survey said they are “retired for good.” The others are either working, looking for work or volunteering. About 5,500 grandparents responded to the survey. The median age of a respondent was 67.
While the grandparents said a visit from family provided the greatest mood boost, other activities such as spending time with friends, watching a TV show or movie or working on hobbies also helped their emotional health. And while having a houseful of grandkids is great, it’s not always such a terrible thing when they leave. The fourth most popular mood boost was “having quiet time alone.”
Perhaps most interesting, the survey showed that it’s time to retire the stereotype of older adults befuddled by technology. More than 89 percent said they use a computer daily, and 68 percent had a smartphone. Less than 1 percent said they didn’t use any technology devices.
“There’s this sense that new technology is the domain of the young,” Kostman says. “The survey showed that that is not the case.” Additionally, grandparents were using mobile technology not only for simple communications such as phone calls or email. A majority were surfing the Internet to research information about their health. “It has become part of what might be considered a mission of their daily routine to access some sort of information,” Kostman says.
Grandparents have some worries about how mobile devices, computers and video games will impact their grandchildren, but their concerns are based on their own good grasp of technology, not out of ignorance. “Overuse of technology could potentially block the opportunity to be outside and just be a kid and do the things that kids do,” Kostman says.