A ‘growing unpaid army’ of grandparents that needs our thanks

Morning View
Morning View

There has been much in the news in recent years about the generational imbalance – how the older generations are doing better than the young.

There was even a survey this month that found that pensioners now have more income that people who are of a working age.

There are genuine and important concerns around this issue, and there are various reasons for the apparent wealth imbalance. People are living decades longer than they once did, which is a triumph of medicine, but which means that the values of pensions for the younger generations have plunged (because actuaries now realise how long people will live).

People who are under 40 will have to work until 70 or beyond.

House prices have also been affected, as older people live far longer in larger family homes than they once did. This is reducing the supply of homes and making it much harder for young people to get on the housing ladder than it was 50 years ago.

All these issues have their roots in something that is to be celebrated: the increase in lifespans.

But it is important also to remember two things: the decades of hard work and the lifetimes of tax contributions that the older generations put in before they are able to retire.

And also that the much longer lifespans of older people are in many respects helping the younger generations.

A new report on childcare costs says that grandparents are saving their children more than £16 billion a year in such expenses, because they are able to look after the grandkids, which saves on hefty fees.

Grandparents across the UK, including Northern Ireland, will recognise that finding. Many thousands of elderly people in the Province are providing such childcare assistance, which can be demanding and tiring for frail people.

As a country we are lucky to have what the group behind the survey, the International Longevity Centre, describe as a “growing unpaid army” that is in need of recognition.