“Grandparent” Does Not Mean “Old”

Recently I saw that Pope Francis declared a universal day in honor of grandparents and the elderly to be celebrated every year on the fourth Sunday in July beginning this July 25th. His proclamation is meant to give priority to the pastoral care of the elderly, because they are so often forgotten, and to draw the generations together for the sake of “preserving roots” and handing on what these elders have received.

Though I celebrate the Pope’s efforts to draw attention to the importance of both grandparents and the elderly and though I could spend the rest of this post on more profound matters related to this proclamation, I’ve decided to address something more superficial (as you may have anticipated from the above title): “Grandparent” is not a synonym for “elderly”. The Pope may not be trying to put the two in the same category, but the press surrounding this special day seems to focus quite heavily on the “elderly” part even when discussing the “grandparent” component.

Looking at some research from AARP*, I found that the average age of first-time grandparents is 50, which is not elderly. Though this proves that Ellen and I are not that unusual as grandparents under 50, Ellen and I are often met with surprise when we tell people we have grandchildren. In Ellen’s case, I understand the surprise because she still looks like she’s 35. Maybe I should be flattered too, but my wrinkles and grey hairs aren’t that inconspicuous. To this point, the youngest age of AARP’s initiates into the grandparent club is 38. Yeah. That’s not old, even if it’s more unusual these days.

Given the statistics, “old” or “elderly” hardly seem fair. I realize that by the time my grandchildren are making their own living, I will be nearing 70. I guess the fact that I am two generations older than any of my grandchildren already makes me old, relatively speaking. Maybe I’m in denial. You can tell me so, but I will continue supporting my cause and claim that “grandparent” does not mean “old”, generally speaking.

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* Link to AARP research