Confronting Unexpected Circumstances


Barron's had an article about the increasingly common and harsh reality that many grandparents will have to takeover the role of raising their grandchildren. This is difficult on many levels. First is the circumstance where grandparents have to assume that role, it probably means something very bad has happened to the adult children, the parents of the grandkids. The coping with whatever happened can run the gambit of emotional recovery and it is all fair game, we all process adverse life events different.

There is also the financial aspect. Barron's found an estimate that it costs $234,000 to raise a kid to age 17. That works out to $1147/mo. But then there is college to possibly consider. The $1100/mo may not sound overwhelming, and certainly no grandparent would say no to taking in grandchild in this sort of situation but that would compound out to a huge piece of money that isn't there at retirement or for grandparents already retired, they very well could need to make some serious changes to their retirement to take on the financial obligation. The could mean going back to work, downsizing or making serious cuts in lifestyle spending. Again, not that a grandparent would not open their home to grandchild but concessions very likely would need to be made.

Taking in a grandchild also focuses a spotlight on the idea of healthspan. This is similar to lifespan but is more about being able to remain able-bodied to an older age than you might otherwise expect. When I read the article there was only one comment, it was from a grandfather who watches his grandchildren, ages 3 and 6, during the day. He loves it he said but it requires work which we can probably all take on face value as being true.

Grandparents' age can range from 45-75 (yes it's a generalization with middling accuracy) but healthspan doesn't have to be about chronological age, it more about biological age. Someone could be 45 and need to be on oxygen and have very limited mobility and someone else could be 75, easily benchpress their body weight and participate in very arduous activities. In that last sentence the 75 year old is biologically younger than the 45 year old and in many instances (not in absolute terms I realize) this outcome can result from changes in behavior; stop eating crap and move heavy things.

When you stop eating crap your metabolic state improves dramatically and when you move heavy things you delay (maybe even avoid altogether) becoming frail. Loss of muscle mass and bone density make us frail and resistance training with weight addresses that. A little over a year ago, we helped my former neighbor with a backhoe and his wife downsize into a smaller place. They donated a bunch of furniture to Joellyn's animal rescue for their annual rummage sale. Mr. Backhoe was 87 at the time and he and I carried out all the furniture. That might be the best example of healthspan I could cite.

The circumstance of taking in grandkids is tough enough, being physically capable of engaging with them can only make that circumstance easier. Also, improving healthspan will also make it easier if one of the concessions that has to be made is going back to work.

There are many types of challenging circumstances that happen in life, our resiliency goes a long way to determining our outcomes.