Much of the focus during the pandemic has been centered around keeping older adults in isolation socially connected and safe while they wait out a prolonged period of quarantine. What’s less often discussed are the many grandparents who are raising their grandchildren or helping adult children care for little ones while parents work from home.
Single parents and double-income families struggled with school and daycare closures in the Spring, trying to supervise online education while conducting their own workday from home. Now that summer is in full swing, with few options for sports, camps, or vacations, many families rely on the assistance of grandparents. But all this extra childcare, as well as cooking, cleaning and entertaining, is putting a strain on seniors who may also still be working and trying to keep themselves safe from COVID-19.
According to a recent Hechinger Report on education, nearly 2.4 million American grandparents are raising their grandchildren. Many of these grands are over the age of 60 and at greater risk from serious illness as a result of coronavirus infection. Many have underlying health conditions like heart disease or diabetes.
School was not only a much-needed break during the day for elder child caregivers, in many families, school provided meals and other resources for students with special needs. Although school districts and community groups have created pickup points for food, venturing out to wait in lines for food can be a challenge for older adults. With patience and money running thin, grandparents are turning to other family members and friends to join their social bubble and help one another with childcare.
The prospect of a return to school and daycare in the fall comes with mixed emotions for all families, but especially for grandparents who care for their grandchildren. Will the children bring the virus home? If so, who will look after the kids if the grandparent(s) become seriously ill? There are more questions than answers right now for families of all structures but it’s important to note that schools play a critical role in the wellbeing of communities far beyond education.
Learn more about how grandparenting has intensified in recent years by following this link to a recent podcast by Professor of Sociology Madonna Harrington Meyer.