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Research finds grandparenting roles impacted by the coronavirus

A new research report from National Seniors Australia, peak body for older Australians, highlights the impact COVID-19 has had on grandparenting roles and activities of older people.

The impact COVID-19 has had on grandparenting has left a hole in family care duties because older Australians have been socially isolating at home. [Source: iStock]
The impact COVID-19 has had on grandparenting has left a hole in family care duties because older Australians have been socially isolating at home. [Source: iStock]

This report called 'Australian Grandparents Care' follows research from National Seniors about unpaid care among older people.

The impact COVID-19 has had on grandparenting has left a hole in family care duties because older Australians have been socially isolating at home and unable to look after their grandchildren.

Keeping children away from older people was highlighted even by the Government during the height of the coronavirus, who recommended no children under the age of 16 should be visiting older residents in aged care facilities.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of National Seniors, Professor John McCallum, says grandparenting is 'intergenerational Lego' and is an important part of strong family connections. 

"It links the generations strongly and this was taken apart during the COVID-19 shutdown and is being put back together as social restrictions ease," explains Professor McCallum.

"Grandparenting is an intergenerational gift to families and the nation.

"It will become even more important as families face financial hardship and the Government deals with the COVID-19 deficit."

The National Seniors report found that a quarter of older Australians provide regular care to their grandchildren with the hours spent on these duties averaging 12 hours per week, with older women working more hours than older men.

Older grandparents between 60 and 79 years of age were typically providing grandparenting and tended to be better off and healthier than others that didn't grandparent.

Around nine out of ten men who grandparent were partnered, compared to six out of ten women; and overall women and men who were partnered were the most likely to be grandparenting.

Not only that, one quarter of those grandparents were also taking care of another adult, like a partner or their own child.

The report also highlighted a unique group identified as the 'sandwich group', who cared for both grandchildren and their own parents, although this group was small.

In the research, National Seniors found it was a mixed bag of positive and negative feedback around grandparenting.

Some participants had positive experiences with grandparenting, describing it as love, joy, a privilege, and excitement.

While others had more of a negative experience, describing it as being used, obligated, having no choice, excessive demands, feeling undervalued, high personal sacrifice, and financial costs of caring.

Most of the participants involved in the study believed that grandparenting is different from actual parenting, describing it as passing on wisdom, connectedness, financial savings for families, sharing life experiences and feeling vital.

The COVID-19 crisis really emphasised the vital role of grandparenting as these duties were impacted and left major gaps in childcare and education.

Professor McCallum adds that grandparenting will continue to be one of the many ways older people provide a social and economic contribution to new generations of Australians.

"Like Lego, it can be taken apart and reconnected as we come out of the COVID-19 shutdown, but it continues to create significant economic value," says Professor McCallum.

To read the full report, head to the National Seniors Australia website.

For more information about the coronavirus, visit the Aged Care Guide COVID-19 update page.

Do you have any questions about the coronavirus that you want answered? Tell us in the comments below or email journalist@dps.com.au.

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