Number of grandparents in Canada continues to grow

The number of grandparents in Canada is the highest it’s ever been, at least since Statistics Canada began collecting the data.

At last count, there were 7.5-million grandparents aged 45 and older in Canada, according to the 2017 General Social Survey on Family. That’s up from seven million in 2011 and 5.4 million in 1995.


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The increase is an indication of our ageing population, according to the chief executive officer at the Vanier Institute of the Family in Ottawa.

“Although grandparents have fewer grandchildren, they tend to have deeper, longer [and] richer relationships with them,” Nora Spinks said. “You can have a relationship now with your grandparents, well into your teens, twenties [and] even thirties.”

With the ageing population and the tendency for women to have kids later in life, grandparents are older than they were in the past. The survey found the average age for a grandparent was 68 in 2017, up from 65 in 1995.

The survey also found that the number of grandparents aged 85 and older nearly tripled from 1995 to 2017, rising from three per cent to eight per cent. Grandmothers outnumber grandfathers in Canada by representing 56 per cent of the group.

Four generations

Josephine (Jo) and Al Koper of Edmonton have 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. The couple were married in 1956 and consider themselves fortunate to have a large and connected family.

“It’s a real thankful thing to have grandparents, for sure, and grandchildren. We get enough out of them, just like they do from us,” Jo said. She is now 82 years old and Al is 86.

One of the Kopers’ granddaughters, Stacia Dolynchuk, said her grandparents have been passing down their traditional Ukrainian heritage.

“We’ve gotten together to make paska, which is the Easter bread. Baba shows us different traditional ways of braiding it,” Dolynchuk said.

Her own three children, aged four, two and nine months, are now building a relationship with their great-grandparents.

“It’s very neat to sit back and think, ‘Wow, this was me a long time ago,’ — the way that they (the Kopers) interact with my kids. I can relive all my childhood memories through my kids,” Dolynchuk said.

“I’m very lucky that they had their kids young and my parents had their kids young.”

Why does the increase in grandparents matter?

The Vanier Institute of the Family analyzed the information collected by Statistics Canada. Family Matters producer Christine Meadows interviewed Spinks to get her take on the grandparent statistics. Here’s part of the conversation.

Christine Meadows: Why are these numbers important?

Nora Spinks: When you have a relationship with your grandparents, it gives you sort of a buffer. We know that some grandparents are the primary adults in kids’ lives. They’re the ones who have stepped in and stepped up when there’s been a need in a family for whatever reason.

We know that grandparents are connecting with their grandkids through technology. It’s giving them an incentive to stay connected, to learn the latest of technology and that shared education learning between grandparent and grandchild. So a grandchild might learn about their values or culture or their heritage [or] language, and grandparents will learn how to upload photos to Instagram. It’s a win-win.

CM: What about for grandparents who won’t live in the same city as their grandkids? Are they still building that deep connection?

NS: Certainly the technology makes a big difference. We know that the No. 1 reason why grandparents are connecting to social media is it gives them a way to connect with their grandchildren. It doesn’t matter anymore if you live around the world or across the country — you can still stay connected to your grandchildren. You can FaceTime with them on a regular basis. You can participate in birthday parties and traditions and even the school play when you’re not there.

Recently, I was at a school event and all the smartphones were out. At first, I thought they were videotaping the event, but then I realized so many of them were actually FaceTiming with the grandparents. It’s a nice resource and support for the parents, but it’s also a great connection for the grandchildren and helps to reduce isolation and loneliness in the grandparents.

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