While a lot of focus is rightly being placed on the safety of students, less discussed are the very real implications on the rest of the family “bubble” (a core group of people who maintain physical distance from others and can safely be close to each other during the pandemic). Grandparents, who often serve as the linchpin of the family’s day to day operations, will be facing tough decisions on how to remain safely connected to their grandchildren as a potential second wave of COVID-19 hits this fall.
“Many of our members (Canadian Association of Retired Persons) tell us they feel like we’re back in the early days of the pandemic when so much anxiety was caused by the unknown,” says Bill VanGorder, CARP’s Interim Chief Policy Officer. “Social isolation is wreaking havoc on seniors across the country. We’re seeing increased rates of depression, cognitive decline and injury in vulnerable elders who have been cut off from their families due to physical distancing measures. Staying connected to grandchildren is key in keeping older people active, engaged and mentally healthy.”
Given that grandparents often care for children while their parents go to work, maintaining physical distance will be next to impossible for many families. This poses a serious safety concern, as school-aged children are up to 4 times more likely to spread the virus to others—a risk older people need to avoid at all costs.
With concerns mounting that schools will be a hotbed for outbreaks, many parents are opting to keep their kids at home or arrange to work from home themselves in order to protect their older loved ones from exposure to COVID-19. On top of this, approximately 400,000 homes in Canada are intergenerational, meaning grandparents are intimately ingrained in the household alongside their younger family members.
“Parents are being reminded how integral grandparents are to keeping their lives running smoothly,” notes VanGorder. “Many parents are going so far as to split up their family bubble into 2. One parent will bubble with the grandparents and the other with the kids. Urgency breeds creativity, and they want to make sure their family elders are as safe as possible going into the school year.”
Luckily for grandparents looking to stay connected to their grandkids, even when maintaining physical distance, there are many options. While nothing can replace a real life hug, we’ve put together a list of ways to be a great “physically-distanced grandparent”, submitted by our Members.
CARP is Canada’s largest advocacy organization for older adults. As a non-partisan association, CARP is committed to working with all parties in government to advocate for older Canadians. Its mission is to advocate for better healthcare, financial security, and freedom from ageism.