The Bonfire of Aging—And Seven Grandparent Resources to Warm Your Heart

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Silver Tsunami, the Age Wave that is sweeping the world? It’s now a controversial term because it implies older people will overwhelm society with their numbers and their needs. Perhaps it encourages fear of aging and disrespect for the elderly—ageism. By whatever name we call it, however, we are in the middle of enormous growth in the older population. This growth parallels the rise in the number of grandparents nationally and globally.

What if we thought of aging instead as a bonfire instead of a tsunami? Bonfires are carefully designed to be both explosive in growth, contained in size, productive of heat, and useful to the very end. All those images can apply to aging. It’s a sweet thought. Especially when marshmallows, graham crackers, and Hershey bars join the scene! My sister’s farm gave our family some recent experience:

Spontaneous family gathering around the bonfire.

Spontaneous family gathering around the bonfire.

Whatever the metaphor, here is the reality:

Age:

  • every day 10,000 people in the U.S. turn 65
  • by 2030, all the baby boomers will be 65
  • life expectancy after age 65 has doubled. If you reach 65, on average, you will live another 20 years
  • baby boomers are projected to have 70% of all U.S. disposable income over the next five years
  • baby boomers will inherit about $15 trillion in the next 20 years
  • 59% of baby boomers who are parents are financially supporting their children ages 18-39

Grandparents:

  • there are 76 million grandparents in the U.S. today, the most ever
  • Of the world’s 7.6 billion people, a record-breaking 1.4 billion, or 18 percent, are grandparents
  • The average age of becoming a grandparent is around 47
  • The average age of grandparents is around 64
  • The average grandparent has six grandchildren
  • According to an AARP survey, grandparents spend an average of $2,562 on their grandkids each year
  • An estimated 2.7 million children lived with grandparents as their primary caregivers in 2020

What a force! That’s a pretty mighty bonfire, don’t you think?

Since co-writing The Mindful Grandparent, I have spent even more time, not less,  researching resources online for grandparents. These are exciting times!

Grandparenting today is where parenting was 50 or 60 years ago—there are few books and resources available to give us the answers and ideas we need. And yet many of us will be grandparents for three or four decades—more than twice as much time as we had while parenting a child in our home! And becoming an effective proactive grandparent is not easy. We have to learn how to communicate with a new generation of kids, and we have to learn to teach and to give to them in ways that do not bypass or step on the toes of the parents.

–Richard and Linda Eyres

Grandparenting 101 Class

Two of the pioneer educators in this emerging field are Linda and Richard Eyres. You may have seen one  of their suggestions in Chapter 38 of my book. The Eyres are in the process of launching a new digital initiative called Grandparenting 101. The course has a “pay what you can” fee structure. I decided to sign up for the six lessons that will give me access to the many resources the Eyres have accumulated in their decades of teaching parenting, values, and now grandparenting skills. They have a podcast also.

Grand Magazine

In some ways this magazine is the “grandmother of them all.” I learned about most of these other resources by first discovering this FREE magazine with its beautiful layout, features with celebrity grandparents and grandparenting experts. You will discover many other resources here. Christine Crosby is the editor.

The Grand Life Podcast

Emily Morgan and her husband Mike have created a high-quality podcast, and Emily has interviewed many of the outstanding leaders in the fields of aging and grandparenting. You can find three years’ worth of podcasts at this website.

Go there soon because Emily has ended the podcast for now. While she and Mike decide what is next for them, you can subscribe and listen to all these wonderful interviews.

Adventures with Grammy Podcast

Carolyn Berry covers a wide variety of topics on her podcast. I particularly liked a recent episode on what grandparents can do about gun violence.

More Than Grand

Here’s a website with special features for new grandparents, a blog, book reviews, and more. Run by former communication consultant DeeDee Moore.

The GaGa Sisterhood

Remember when I interviewed Donne Davis, the founder of the Gaga Sisterhood?  I’ve joined her network of GaGa grandmothers and will be a guest on the September 11 Zoom meeting!

Paula Span’s Columns in The New York Times

You met Paula Span when I was honored to talk with her in this interview.  If you subscribe to The New York Times, you can read Paula’s columns there.

These seven online resources are not the only ones! They are just the ones I found first or use most frequently. I have warmed my hands and heart around the bonfire of aging with their help. Where do you go to get inspiration? Feel free to name some one or some place not on the internet! They are often the best role models.

Shirley Showalter

15 Comments

  1. Donne on June 21, 2022 at 3:42 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful article and all these excellent resources. I’m familiar with all of them and thrilled to be one you mention.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 21, 2022 at 4:21 pm

      Donne, you have been mining the resources on this subject a lot longer than I have. I know that I will learn a lot more as I hang around with you and the other GaGa Sisters! Thanks for starting the conversation. I think I need to add The Long Distance Grandparent. I’ll do that in the comment section below.

  2. Laurie Buchanan on June 21, 2022 at 4:09 pm

    Shirley — Whoa, Nellie, the statistics you shared are staggering! I turn 65 this September, so I count myself amid those numbers. THANK YOU for the resources you additionally shared. Happy grandparenting!

    • Shirley Showalter on June 21, 2022 at 4:25 pm

      It is a pretty amazing set of statistics, isn’t it, Laurie? I winnowed a few out of the list just to keep it manageable. The one that surprised me most is how much money grandparents spend on grandchildren. Keep the bonfire burning bright! I know you will.

  3. Christine on June 21, 2022 at 4:09 pm

    Shirley, on behalf of the GRAND team, thank you for your kind words about our magazine. We believe grandparents play a vital role in families, communities, our country and the world. Thank YOU for being such an outstanding advocate for all GRANDparents!
    Wishing you continued success!
    Christine Crosby
    GRAND magazine

    • Shirley Showalter on June 21, 2022 at 4:27 pm

      Wonderful to see you here, Christine. I certainly hope the readers of this blog will take advantage of the amazing resource you have put together. You had the vision to recognize an underdeveloped resource, grandparents, and to help start a movement. No telling where it will end!

  4. Shirley Showalter on June 21, 2022 at 5:13 pm

    I neglected to put The Long Distance Grandparent Society in this list! I am listening right now to a video about digital play with grandchildren. I listened to a free webinar a few weeks ago and then decided to sign up for $20/month membership in the society. I am impressed with the number of resources on the website. Amazing numbers of subjects and lots of ideas for activities. Kerry Byrne is the CEO of the company. She is not a grandmother but a mother of young children who saw the need for grandparents and grandchildren to have help connecting across the miles. There are many free resources here too, and the free newsletter is quite worthwhile.https://thelongdistancegrandparent.com/

  5. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on June 21, 2022 at 7:17 pm

    We have more grandchildren than the average according to your statistics! We have eight grandchildren (four boys and four girls). Two of our daughters have a boy and a girl each (in that order) and our middle daughter has four (boy, girl, girl, boy). That seems almost too balanced to be real! They are lovely, but grew up in the blink of an eye, with two now young adults and the youngest almost a teen.
    Just finished reading your book which I can now return so the grandma waiting for it can read it! I took notes!

    • Shirley Showalter on June 21, 2022 at 8:11 pm

      You are definitely above average! I have enjoyed reading about these marvelous grandchildren in your blog, Elfrieda. Hard to believe they are so grown up already. I know you have created many memories with them. What an abundance of blessing! So glad you found something worthy of note-taking in our book! Thanks for letting me know.

  6. Shirley Showalter on June 21, 2022 at 9:03 pm

    After I hit publish on this blog, I got an email from DeeDee at More Than Grand. It was a lovely review of The Mindful Grandparent! https://www.morethangrand.com/blog/the-mindful-grandparent-the-art-of-loving-our-childrens-children

  7. DeeDee Moore on June 21, 2022 at 11:36 pm

    If you need an indication of what a supportive community of grandparents there is out there, the fact that Shirley and I unknowingly shared each other’s resources on the same day should convince you!

    Shirley, I love the image of the bonfire we are creating! Thanks for including More Than Grand on your list!

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2022 at 9:35 am

      DeeDee, I was delighted and amazed to see this. And I love the fact that you chose to “snack” on the book. A chapter a day with lunch. We wanted readers to be able to do that. Also to dip in and out depending on topic. To read the whole way through and then still keep the book handy for reference. Thanks for taking time to visit and for all the work you are doing around the bonfire!

  8. Maren C. Tirabassi on June 22, 2022 at 6:18 am

    These are wonderful resources. thank you.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 22, 2022 at 9:43 am

      Thanks, Maren. I love the fact that I can collect resources here and then use the search function on the blog to find them later. I am not great at storing and organizing digital information. So I use my blog to help me. Hope it helps others too!

  9. Shirley Showalter on June 23, 2022 at 11:39 am

    Two more resources to add here. The Legacy Coalition focuses on spiritual legacy. Evangelical Christian. https://legacycoalition.com/

    The Legacy Project is the result of the visionary thinking of Susan Bosak, TED-X speaker, grandmother, advocate for Seven Generation thinking about social issue. https://legacyproject.org/about/bosak.html

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