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The Bitter Sweetness of Becoming a Grandparent After 70

By Alice Fisher February 07, 2024 Family

I am 73 years old, and my husband is 74. Our oldest granddaughters are 22 and 18, and two years ago we became grandparents again.

Our youngest son, who married later than his older brothers, had his first baby, a boy, at 40. This precious boy is the first of our grandchildren who we don’t have to get on a plane to visit. We anticipated this new addition to our family with great joy.

When our older grandchildren were born, we were in our 50s – so young. Our own mortality never entered into the picture. We would all live happily ever after.

With this birth, however, there was a conscious realization that our time with this new baby is finite. Will we get to see him grow into an adult? Maybe. This makes our time with this new addition to our family all that more precious and urgent.

Everyone needs to have access both to grandparents and grandchildren in order to be a full human being.

—Margaret Mead

The Changing Demographics of Becoming a Grandparent

With the change in demographics that is a result of young people committing to marriage and family at much later ages than previous generations, it is not unusual to hear older adults wonder out loud if they will ever become grandparents.

Many years ago, I read an article that stated that as we remain healthy for a longer period of time, there are tons of prospective grandparents out there with energy to spare who are “running around in their jogging suits” longing to have a grandchild.

As I researched this phenomenon, I was surprised to find a good amount of rich material. One of the first articles I came across was written by Susanna Schrobsdorff for TIME Magazine.

When taking her young children to visit her 81-year-old dad in an assisted living facility, she realized that they were among the youngest grandchildren visiting a grandparent. She wrote that they are “among a growing number of kids who will see their grandparents primarily as people in need of care rather than as caretakers.”

Is Grandparenting Becoming an ‘Endangered Institution’?

In another article, one written by Petra Starke for New Corp Australia Network, the author suggests that grandparenting may be an “endangered institution.” A 40-year-old mother, who has to wait the average 30.6 or 40 years for her child to become a parent, will be 70 or 80 by the time she herself becomes a grandparent.

Organizations like Find a Grandparent (Australia) and Adopt a Grandparent (UK) connect surrogate grandparents with young families. In the United States, we have a Facebook Group called Surrogate Grandparents USA that connects surrogate grandparents and grandchildren.

I see this as another way of ameliorating the incessant ageism that pervades our society. Children need to be exposed to – and form relationships with – older adults if they are to grow into adults who welcome age diversity in their communities.

This is also an excellent way to enrich the lives of older grandparents who have no grandchildren or are living far or are estranged from their own progeny.

What Older Grandparents Give to Their Grandchildren

My first reaction to the ‘aha’ of coming to grips with this new adventure is the advantage of our older age. We may not be able to run as fast as we once did, but what we have now that we didn’t have then is an entire lifetime of wisdom and experience to share.

It is the remarkable ability of someone with a long life lived being able to give to a new life just beginning. And, hopefully, this little boy will not perpetuate the incessant age prejudice that is all around us.

Optimistically, his experience of having old grandparents will inform his feelings towards old people throughout his life. This alone is a great gift we get to give him. To add to this, we are about to receive a special gift from our new grandchild.

What Grandchildren Give to Their Aging Grandparents

Your grandchildren do more than make you smile – they can help you stay sharper, be more active and live longer. Spending just the right amount of time with grandchildren could sharpen your cognitive skills.

But, don’t overdo it. Grandparents who are full time caregivers to their grandchildren can suffer stress which eradicates all the benefits of interacting with your grandchildren. Research, however, has shown that the benefits to grandparents who spend one or two days a week with their grandchildren are multifold.

Time with grandchildren can make you sharper, more active, lower your risk of depression and keep you learning. Time together can also give you a renewed sense of purpose and motivate you to take better care of yourself.

The biggest surprise is that hugging or holding hands with your grandchildren can strengthen immunity and help you age better.

Memories You Share with Your Grandchildren Last a Lifetime

When I was 15 years old, my maternal grandfather passed away, and my grandmother came to live with us. Reflecting on that experience recently, both my sister and I expressed what an absolute gift that was for us. My favorite times were joining grandma in her room in the evening.

That’s when she would share her memories of my mom and her sister and brothers growing up. So many stories she had to share with us.

Those stories became part of who I am today; and to this day, I have a great understanding of who I am and where I came from because of those conversations. I often still “talk” to my grandmother when I have a problem to figure out. Imagine, here I am, 73 years old, and I still “talk” to grandma.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What is the age difference between you and your grandchildren? Could you imagine yourself become a grandma at your current age? What would that feel like for you? Please join the conversation below!

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I am about to turn 69 and have 2 children- 27 and 24. Do the math- I was a much older mother when I gave birth! My oldest is engaged to be married but she is not planning on having children for several more years. I will be in my early to mid-seventies when the first is born. I realize my time may not be long. But, I also look at my own mother who died when I was 35 and without children; she never was a grandmother to my daughters. No one can predict our health of life on the earth. I will enjoy my grandchildren and do whatever I can to create memories for them.


That’s right. No one can predict how long we get to live. We must enjoy the time we have together each day.

P. Holgate

If my son doesn’t hurry up and have some children, (if he and his wife ever do) the age difference between me and those potential grandchildren will be more than 74 years!!!! but on the other hand my eldest Granddaughter (my daughters daughter) who is 50 years younger than me is about to have her first child and we’ve already had discussions on how many days of the week I can help her with childcare to assist her eventual return to work. I figure I can cope with one or two days, considering that I’ll have to do 100 kilometres of commuting on each of those days. I guess efforting is what keeps us motivated and active in body and mind. :)

Catherine Vance

Oh, how I remember “Grandma Lillian” overjoyed at the hospital when her 46-year-old
son (my husband) gave her a new grandson when she was in her 70s (I was 31). She beamed and said, “Oh thank you for having this baby for me!!!” Haha. I am 69. My husband now 84. That baby boy is 37, single, and taking his time on finding the right life’s partner. “Family” changes, “marriage” is re-defined. It all works out. MY OWN Mom is
92 and as the “only” elder in that side of my family, is beloved by ALL the kids, in-laws,
grandkids (and their spouses) and great-grandkids because she is the last remaining oldster. All my cousins and in-laws call her “MOM.” All will be fine with the changing times.
And yes–I LOVE the surrogate grandparent/grandchild thing. Reach OUT to those young people without grandmas and grandpas and change their lives and yours.

Jan Delunas

I had young grandparents – in their forties when I was born. They were a blessing in my life! For me, I became a grandmother at age sixty and it has been such joy for eleven years! But next grandchild will be a seventy-something age difference!

Alan Brooks

There is 86 years between me and my new born granddaughter. I should check the Guinness Book of Records
to see where I rank. Fortunately, I’m in very good health so I hope to have a bunch of good years with my lovely granddaughter.


unfortunately, we can never tell our children, just as our parents could’nt never tell us when to give them grand children. so in the meantime, why not give your love and experiences to other children in the family or to children who have no grand parents. it’s not the same thing but why waste your may not be here as some commenters are saying, to enjoy you grandchildren.,

The Author

Alice Fisher, M.A., M.S.W., is the founder of The Radical Age Movement which is dedicated to confronting and eliminating the ageism in our society This new movement seeks to change the way older adults are perceived and treated in society, and also the implications for social practices and government policy.

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