I am so lucky that I live only a short distance away from my 2 little granddaughters and see them often. This has all sorts of advantages.

I read somewhere that humans are the only species that live long enough to be able to help with the generation after the one it created. The discussion was about how this helps to ensure the physical survival of humans and quote the days when people often spent their lives within a short distance of where they were born and there were usually 3 generations living within a short distance, all intermingling in their lives. This still seems to happen in poorer countries, except for example in China where the young people have had to go away to get work in the cities where the jobs are. Meanwhile in western societies travel is so much easier that often young people travel away, including overseas to where there may be better job prospects for them. The extent of this in Australia is shown by statistics which suggest that approximately 15% of older Australians have a child living within walking distance and another approximately 22% have children living a short drive away. Approximately 5% of children live overseas.

This has many impacts on the lives of older people, children and grandchildren. Those who do live near enough to have regular contact have the advantage of each group staying in touch with each of the others. People living in westernised countries tend not to emphasise the importance of family continuity although this is changing as more people do searches on their family trees. I haven’t come across any research on how important having knowledge of those family members who went before us is to our ideas of ourselves. Many Aboriginal children who were taken from their families under misguided white policy say how important it is to them to find their blood families no matter how well their adoptive parents looked after them. Are those who don’t value their ancestral heritage missing out on something that is culturally important?

Meanwhile I just enjoy my grandchildren for who they are and try not to be too biased about them! I not only enjoy their company and enjoy watching them develop into gorgeous young people but there are many benefits for me in other ways. I know that I will be tired the next day but the day after I will feel much fitter. I use very different muscles when I look after them. I know how important exercise is for us as we get older but no amount of the prescribed exercises replace the very different, and much more varied, exercise looking after little ones provide. Maybe they will help me to not only live longer but be fitter as well!

The downside of so many young people moving away from grandparents is that there are many children who don’t have grandparents in their lives. In the UK they have a program to enable families to adopt a grandparent but this needs to be handled very carefully. It is not quite as forgiving a relationship in either direction as the natural one. If more older people have a major interest or hobby which takes them out into the community where young people are this could be a beginning.

Meanwhile I continue to enjoy my own 2 little ones and feel grateful for all the pleasure they give me.

Audrey