Locating grandparents

By Rosa Mas Giralt

My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is. (Ellen DeGeneres)

Grandparents Plus (a nationwide charity that supports grandparents) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the UK recently released a report entitled Protect, Support, Provide. It highlighted that grandparents who provide child care in low income families run a higher risk of poverty as they are likely to reduce their working hours or give up work completely, leading to a decrease in their income and on their pensions’ rights. This report has provided important policy recommendations by emphasising the potential conflict between government policies which aim at increasing both the number of lone parents at work and the employment rate of people as they approach retirement. I would like to echo the report’s call for recognising the important contributions that grandparents make in the lives of many families in the UK. In this sense, Ellen DeGeneres inadvertently leads me to wonder whether we know where grandparents are in today’s society.

In a forthcoming article for Area, Anna Tarrant (2009) appraises how intergenerational geographies can benefit from engaging more fully with the study of grandparenthood. Through her own research with grandfathers, she explores ideas of “spatial proximity, bodyspace, embodiment and intimacy, and activity spaces in the everyday lives of grandparents” (2009:6) as possible venues to expand the field of intergenerational scholarship. In this way, human geographers can contribute to “locating” contemporary grandparenthood.

 Visit the Grandparents Plus website and read the Protect, Support and Provide report

 Read Anna Tarrant (2009) “Constructing a social geography of grandparenthood: a new focus for intergenerationality”. Area. [Early View]

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