The importance of over 55s in the family

17 December 2021

A lifetime of experience is hugely valuable to younger relatives, as you share first-hand knowledge with them and offer assistance with daily life.

By the time you find yourself planning for retirement, or welcoming grandchildren into the family, it may feel as if the world has already been passed onto a younger generation. Yet grandparents and mature professionals have a huge amount to offer at any age – especially to their families. It’s hard to overstate the value of accumulated wisdom, as anyone who’s ever rung their parents for advice will acknowledge. And from childcare to companionship, older relatives can be indispensable to the success of an extended family unit.

Something old, something new

Your children might not thank you for pointing it out, but they were little once. And while they’ll inevitably think you could have done certain things better, they’ll come to recognise (a) how hard parenting is and (b) how valuable learned experience is. As well as being able to enjoy grandchildren without the daily pressures of parenthood, you’re ideally placed to offer advice and expertise based on your own knowledge. Technology and popular culture might be unrecognisable from decades ago, but the principles of good parenting are unchanged. And when you reveal a proven technique for soothing a screaming baby at 3am, your kids will momentarily worship you, even through their fog of exhaustion.

Something else parents will cherish is babysitting, which represents a win for all parties. They get some rare and precious downtime, you’re able to spend time with your second generation of direct descendants, and the kids enjoy different experiences/routines/conversations. It’s been estimated that nine million UK grandparents provide an average of almost ten hours’ weekly childcare, which is generally quality time for all concerned. Kids tend to enjoy time spent with grandparents, with less tantrums and histrionics than their parents might expect.

Even decades later, many parents remember the loneliness that often results from starting a family, as old hobbies and friendships are set aside through lack of opportunity (and energy). Regular catch-ups once the youngsters are asleep provide a valuable opportunity to dispel worries and engage in adult conversation, which is often a low priority amid the school run and the endless churn of laundry. It’s a two-way street, since becoming parents often makes adults feel closer to their own parents, potentially strengthening relationships in the process.

Word to the wise

Accumulated wisdom is valuable to more people than your own kids. Older grandchildren and extended family members are also likely to cherish time with you, especially if you have shared interests like football or golf. Keeping fit gets increasingly important as your metabolism slows down, and intergenerational exercise provides great motivation, even if you’re doing parkrun together rather than Ironman.

Spending time with nieces, nephews and grandchildren provides a two-way information exchange. Younger generations teach their elders how to navigate new technologies like augmented reality gaming, while politely imparting cultural advice (“we don’t say that any more, Grandad”) Hearing younger voices more in tune with contemporary culture is often highly advisable, especially given the pace at which social norms are evolving nowadays.

Finally, it’s worth reflecting on the growth of intergenerational households. Juniper are proud to construct high-quality homes for over-55s, but we recognise that some families will go through periods when multigenerational living is either desirable or necessary. Everyone can pitch into the successful running of a family home, sharing daily burdens like grocery shopping and reducing overheads through a single set of household bills, while providing care wherever it’s most needed.