Grandparents a saving grace

October 04, 2011

How much tougher would it be for young families to make it through the recession and beyond, if not for the support of grandparents.

Food retailers should pay attention to grandparents – because they're anything but disconnected to their children and grandchildren.  The Lempert Report has written about the resources grandparents can spend, the food legacies they can bring to families, and the greater number of U.S. households that include three generations.

Grandparents are living longer, they're more active, and their food-involvement has them influencing purchases and eating habits beyond their own. "A majority of grandparents today are working age Baby Boomers between 45 and 64 years old. Three-quarters of the people in that age range are in the workforce and most of them work full-time," says The MetLife Report on American Grandparents, issued by The MetLife Mature Market Institute with Peter Francese, a demographic trends expert.

The report sheds new light on the growing silver generation and their economic ties to up-and-coming families dealt a blow by the recession and its aftermath.

Households in the 45-to-64 age range command 46% of total U.S. household income – and these monies will be needed to help "young adult children and grandchildren find their way and prosper in the new global economy….Today's parents face the daunting prospect of having diminishing resources to pay for vastly more expensive education," says Francese. Grandparents of all ages numbered 65 million in 2010 and are projected to reach 80 million by 2020, according to the report, which also noted:

  • Households age 55 or older spent $7.6 billion in 2009 on such child-specific items as infant food, equipment and clothing, toys, games and tricycles, up 71% over the 1999 level. They also spent $2.43 billion on primary and secondary school tuition and supplies, triple the level of ten years earlier.
  • Just one in five grandparents lives alone, but that rises to as high as 38% in the 75+ age range.
  • About 4.5 million grandparent-headed households include one or more of their grandchildren, according to 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data. This means 11% of grandparent-headed households have at least one grandchild and 60% have two or more. Of these grandparent/grandchild households, 17% include both of the grandchild's parents, 49% one of the grandchild's parents, and 34% neither parent.
  • In addition, there are 2.7 million three-generation households in the U.S. The grandchild's parents head about two-thirds of these households. One famous example is the Obama family in the White House.

The report cites "societal and workforce dislocations" and thankfully, the "presence and deep involvement of an extraordinarily large number of savvy American grandparents" to help offset the impact. This, the report suggests, could help younger families make it through a prolonged period where future wage growth is in question.  

The sooner supermarkets dig into these emotional and economic connections between multiple generations of families, the quicker they'll be seen as authentic solutions providers, we feel at The Lempert Report.