I hear it all the time: “You don't look old enough to be a grandparent." As a 51-year-old baby boomer, I am among a growing trend of women who are not only wives and mothers---we are also grandmothers.
Gone are the days when you saw gray-haired women wearing their hair in buns and dresses near their ankles. We are no longer stay-at-home grandmothers relaxing in our rocking chairs. Today’s grandmothers are, more than likely, still in the workforce or entrepreneurs. They are probably also more likely to take an active role in their grandchildren's day-to-day lives.
There are an estimated 80 million grandparents in the U.S. today. By 2012, that number is expected to reach around 115 million. These grandparents essentially are taking on a second parenthood due to the fallout of their children’s divorces, financial problems or, increasingly, drug addictions.
Marketers are taking notice of these baby boomer grandparents. Retailers have begun targeting boomer grandparents, using pop hits from the 1950s and ’60s in commercials and reviving some of the old-fashioned toys like Etch-A-Sketch.
It’s working. A U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey predicted that grandparents spend nearly $30 billion a year on their grandchildren – but not just on toys.
• Nearly 20 percent of all travel involves grandchildren with grandparents, with or without the grandchildren's parents.
• Boomer grandparents want to leave a legacy, either of wealth, education or shared interests.
• Many of boomers' purchases are influenced by their grandchildren.
It is not all rosy though. Boomer grandparents are more likely than older generations to raise their grandchildren and, for the first time in many generations, grandparents are heading multiple-family households as their Generation X offspring suffer from foreclosures and distressed sales of homes and widespread layoffs.
And in my case, I'm taking on the role of Ma for my two-year-old grandson while his mother pursues her college education in another city.