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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 July, 2004, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Supergrans - the new girl power
By Susannah Cullinane
BBC News Online

The Queen
The Queen travels the world, is rather social AND heads a country...
If the term 'grandmother' conjures up images of a frail, decrepit woman knitting jumpers in a village from which she has ne'er strayed in the last 80 years... think again.

Today's grandmas are increasingly determined to seize the day and live their lives as they decided to live them in the swinging sixties.

In 2003, men and women aged over 50 spent 38.4bn on consumer goods and this is set to rocket to 46bn by 2008 according to recent research by market analyst Datamonitor.

By then, there will be 8.5 million early "empty nesters" - people whose children have left home - in the UK, and their annual disposable income is expected to have risen to 17,872 from 13,673 today.

Of 19.8 million people in the UK aged over 50 in 2002, there were 18% more women than men.

Increasing wealth could have contributed to the youthful feelings revealed in a survey by a magazine for the over-50s, which found the average 21st century grandmother was 69-years-old - but only felt 48.

This is an adventurous generation feeling more comfortable to continue living their lives in the way they want to live them
Liz Hickey
Age Concern

Yours magazine looked at a random 2,000 survey responses out of 5,000 returned and found that 92% of grandmothers were "happy now" and not pining for days gone by.

What's more, it said most far preferred the role of grandparent to parent - which is lucky at a time when grandparents account for 4 billion of childcare in Britain, according to Age Concern.

'Role Models'

Age Concern spokesperson Liz Hickey said the Yours survey highlighted some really positive things about grandparents.

She said they were living active lives to the full and as such were "really positive role models for their grandchildren" - in whom they were investing a lot of time.

"For today's grandparents I don't think age is how they define themselves," she said.

"They grew up in an active generation and lived through a period of great change. They are used to campaigning for their rights and don't see age as a barrier in any way."

Ms Hickey pointed to grandparents returning to university, pursuing new career options, travelling, exercising and attending concerts.

"No matter how old you are can keep on growing and experiencing life to the full. They are getting out there and enjoying life."

A grandmother and grandson
Many grandparents say they prefer their role to that of parents

"This is an adventurous generation feeling more comfortable to continue living their lives in the way they want to live them."

Elizabeth Timms, senior press officer for campaign group Help the Aged agreed, adding that people were now able to stay healthier and live longer than used to be possible.

"My grandma was an old lady when she was my age. My mother was very middle-aged."

She said while some grandmothers still fitted the hand-knitting stereotype they now take their woollens to the high street and sell it at high prices.

"And they're not sitting at home knitting - they are going to Spain for the winter, because it can be cheaper for them to spend a month or two in Spain," she said.

The Yours survey found grandmothers tended to run away for three short breaks and two longer holidays a year.

It said grandmothers also thought their own generation had the 'best childhoods' (86%) and 'enjoyed more freedom' (73%).

Help the Aged recently carried out an exercise of comparing the lives and experiences of pensioners born before 1944 with those, baby boomers, born later.


Mrs Timms pointed out that those born before 1944 lived through two world wars, forced conscription, the depression, rife poverty and unequal rights for women.

"If you were born before 1944 you faced hardships... and people put up with things.

"There were people who were born and lived in the same village and only got to their county town once a year. Since 1944 there has been a big change.

"People don't put up with things in the way they used to do and world travel has increased.

"Grandparents are enjoying life - I think that's probably because they were used to enjoying life when they were young and they're not going to stop that now."

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