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Today’s Grandparents Using Technology, Travel and Finances to Connect

AARP research says grandparents play a huge role in grandchildren’s lives

older man high fives a child


En español | Today's grandparents are a diverse, engaged and powerful force, according to a new national AARP survey on grandparents in society. Modern grandparents are connected and caring, often involved in the everyday lives of their grandchildren, and they are reaping the health benefits, both psychological and physical, of that engagement. 

The new grandparents see grandkids as the elixir of life. They play a financial, cultural and emotional part in family life. They are tech savvy and might be found video-chatting with grandchildren of all ages or texting their teen grands across the miles. Their penchant for travel extends to taking their grandchildren, without mom and dad, on adventurous trips, a trend the tourism industry calls “skip-gen” travel, and grandparents’ generosity may be in kind (babysitting for free) or loom as large as footing some of the bill for college.

Increasingly today’s grandparents — 70 million in the U.S. — are an indispensable part of the family unit.

graphic of survey results

Christine Charboneau/AARP

“With the average age of a first-time grandparent being 50 years old, our typical perceptions of grandparents (and what we often see in the media) aren’t matching the real experiences of families today,” says Alison Bryant, AARP’s senior vice president of research. “Grandparents are engaged, active and embedded into their grandkids’ lives as much as their resources and distance allow them to be.” 

And that distance can be hard. In the “Grandparents Today” survey, which questioned 2,654 grandparents age 38 and older on topics including attitudes about technology, connection to grandkids, spending power and their overall role in their grandchildren’s lives, distance was cited as the No. 1 barrier to seeing grandchildren more frequently. Today’s technology helps bridge that gap.

“Grandparents quickly adapt and adopt when it comes to technology — picking up new ways to interact with their grandkids either because it enhances the experience — like in a video chat — or is the preference of the grandchild, such as texting. They crave that connection, and also recognize the positive benefits it has emotionally, physically and cognitively,” Bryant says. She notes that a whopping “89 percent of grandparents think that engaging with their grandkids improves their mental well-being and 67 percent say it makes them more sociable. In light of the recent AARP research showing the prevalence of adult loneliness and its dire impacts, these connections are even more important.”