Co-parenting: It’s all a bit of a juggling act, but all in the name of love

It’s said the world over that being a parent is one of the best things you’ll ever do. But being a grandparent is on a whole other level, one that has all the good bits and the luxury of time to enjoy them. But just how much time is going towards helping to raise the next generation and how much do Australians as a whole rely on this ongoing labour of love?

Putting such theories to the test, we surveyed 1,000 Australians over 50 about the impact of modern life in order to gain some valuable insights into trends among our aging population. And the results were surprising to say the least. For example, how are Aussies over 50 using technology and coping with their expanded new role as go-to care-givers for the grandkids? Just fine, thank you very much. In fact, the two may well be inextricably linked!

Time is money … Australian grandparents collectively save their children $6.6 billion annually in childcare fees

In order to assist their own children, many grandparents are now prepared to step up and take more of a co-parenting role when it comes to looking after grandchildren. Around 937,000 children in Australia currently receive regular care from their grandparents – on average, for about 16 hours per week. If one were to accumulate care, based off a general rate of $8.50 per hour, it effectively amounts to $127.4 million saved per week in childcare costs nationally (or $6.6 billion annually).

Many grandparents expressed that doing this has meant significant compromise to their own lives. Over three-quarters of over-50s surveyed have decided to live closer to their own children to help take care of their grandkids; over 60 per cent say their retirement plans have been heavily shaped by the responsibility of taking care of their grandchildren; over 58 per cent say they have to alter their lifestyle and recreational activities; 42 per cent say they often have to alter their holiday and travel arrangements; 40 per cent say they need to make considerable sacrifices; and 30 per cent say the need to alter their work arrangements.

Nonetheless, more than 83 per cent of seniors surveyed say they care for their grandchildren purely out of love – and given that they’re providing a total service worth $6.6 billion a year, it’s probably just as well. Not only that, 34 per cent of grandparents pride themselves most on caring for family “above all their other achievements in life”. To give that additional context, the importance of providing for their family was rated higher than community volunteering (12.6 per cent), travelling the world (12.5 per cent) and career achievements (8.6 per cent).

Understandably, many seniors are less than happy with some changes to modern society and their perceived detrimental effects on the family unit over the last 30 years – 86.6 per cent of those surveyed in the 50-plus demographic believe that “families used to be more focused on one another in the past, than they are now”.

Grey hair doesn’t diminish grey matter when it comes to embracing new tech

The reality is technology has been widely embraced rather than rejected by Australia’s 50-plus population, leading some to suggest that all the time spent with the grandkids has honed their digital know-how. A startling 69.8 per cent of those surveyed saying “life is better now the internet is around”. Not only that, 62 per cent of those over 50 believe that the Digital Revolution has had a much greater impact on our society in the last 100 years than all the major wars in that time put together.

Currently, 95 per cent of seniors are online daily, and are online for 3.4 hours per day on average! Even those 75 years and older are clocking up close to 20 hours a week on average. Social media is similarly big for over-50s – 48.7 per cent spend an average of 9.7 hours a week networking. In addition, almost 80 per cent of those surveyed say they are comfortable making purchases online.

The idea that smartphones scare off seniors is another myth – like their younger counterparts, 60.5 per cent of seniors surveyed say they’d be “lost without their smartphones”.

Meanwhile, when it comes the most popular smartphone apps in this demographic, Facebook rules for the 50–64 year olds, Google is king for the 65–74 year olds, while weather apps reign for those 75 years and older.

Also, if you thought taking selfies was a practice reserved for narcissistic millennials and gormless Gen-Ys, then think again … Australian seniors are embracing the selfie bigtime, with 37.5 per cent admitting to have snapped a self-portrait. In fact, selfies are most popular with 50–64 year olds in the survey demographic.

What ticks us off about technology?

In a nutshell? Annoying acronyms. And really, whatever happened to spelling words in their entirety? Yes, despite the smartphone obsession, over-50s expressed a general disdain for online acronyms, internet-speak and Gen-Yisms in general. With over 22 per cent of 65 years and older saying “OMG” is the one they hate the most. Even so, almost six per cent of over 50s surveyed admit they are less perturbed by the use of “YOLO” (‘You Only Live Once’, for the uninitiated) – although it remains unclear whether that’s because Australian seniors either (a) concur with the basic sentiment after a lifetime of experience; or (b) simply misinterpret it as a type of enthusiastic greeting.

Stay tuned for the next chapter of the Australian Seniors Series … A report on seniors, by Seniors.

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