'Not your grandma's grandma'

Today's elders are fit, active, busy and adventuresome

The median age of grandparents has stayed constant over the past century -- 45 years old, according to Handbook on Grandparenthood, edited by M. E. Szinovacz.

But increased life expectancy means modern grandparents are healthier, and many feel they are "younger in spirit."

"At 64, I'm probably a little bit healthier than my grandparents were," Palo Alto resident Beverly Nadine said.

Jan Kuersten, 58, of Mountain View, recently ran a half-marathon. She often "wrestle[s around on the floor" with her grandchildren and participates in physical, active events, such as camping, she said.

"Society a generation ago viewed people at a certain age as old. Baby boomers have continued to try and ignore the fact that we're getting old. We don't have expectations of what 50, 60 or 70 looks like," she said.

Grandparents today also think differently than their counterparts from the mid-20th century. Kuersten retired from her job as an administrator at Foothill College because she wanted time to focus on herself.

"It was almost incumbent on me to take the time I had to focus on things I wanted to do, to learn about who I am," she said.

Donne Davis of Menlo Park -- who founded a grandmothers' support group called the GaGa Sisterhood -- writes in her journal every day and occasionally writes freelance articles.

Donne's daughter, Deborah, describes her mother as "super active." She walks daily, does yoga and participates in dance classes.

Such vigorous lifestyles characterize the new generation of grandparents.

Cheri Goldberg, a member of the GaGa Sisterhood, flies to Pennsylvania every few months to visit her grandson.

"My grandparents were really old and not necessarily infirm, but they didn't travel well. They just stayed in their community and died in their community. They were not adventuresome," she said.


Posted by Monet, a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Hey, Ms Donne,
Congratulations and best wishes in GaGa Sisterhood.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2008 at 5:59 pm

I had my last of four children when I was 43, my eldest being 9. He is now 9 and I am still far from being a grandparent. I am not alone in this area.

With fertility drugs and women delaying starting a family, the trend of being a grandparent at 45 is going to diminish drastically.

Posted by Palo Alto Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2008 at 2:21 am

I'm not quite sure what "the median age of grandparents has stayed constant over the past century -- 45 years old" is supposed to mean. Is it supposed to be "age at birth of first grandchild"? Is this a local or world-wide statistic?

I'd imagine this median age has something to do with differences in socio-economics, cultural behaviors, and such, because most people *I* know locally have delayed / are delaying marriage into their 30's. Even if they have children immediately, they won't be grandparents at 45.

I am about to turn 45, but I have a child in high school and a child in middle school (so there had better not be grandchildren in my NEAR future. :p) I am a physically fit practicing martial artist, my 72-year-old mom still walks several miles and swims daily, and even my 97-year-old grandmom still lives on her own without assistance, though she is less active since her hip replacement.

I do take issue with the article's quotation "Baby boomers have continued to try and ignore the fact that we're getting old." I know I'm not 20-some anymore, and I know not to request 20-some physical behavior levels from my older body, because I shall rue any resulting injuries, which take longer to heal now. However, 45 is still far from "old". I may have a few grey hairs here and there, but I don't even have any wrinkles yet. :)

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