Grandfamilies: Top Research Topics

I co-presented at a session, “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Preliminary Results of a National Survey on Research and Practice” here at the American Society on Aging’s “Aging in America” conference in San Francisco, along with Deb Whitley from GSU and Andrea Smith from WMU. We were so pleased that we had a good representation of the next generation of researchers and practitioners at our session – undergraduate and graduate students. They are the future. They are the people who will be taking care of all of us boomers as we age!

Our session highlighted recent surveys done by the National Center on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, and revealed the top research topics to be health and family relations among grandfamilies. Interestingly, there is a much smaller body of research about other key issues, such as housing and hunger…both of which we know to be great needs among this population. AARP and the AARP Foundation have chosen to focus on both those areas, acknowledging them both to be part of the basic foundation that vulnerable older adults need to survive.

While the initial survey results are about only 24 projects, the results give us a snapshot of what’s happening across the nation in terms of research on grandfamilies. It was encouraging – and surprising – to find that the surveys found a total of $3.4 million in funding is going toward these 24 research projects. It validates the fact that this is a growing population (over 2.5 million grandparent caregivers and 4.9 million children living with grandparent householders according to US Census American Community Survey data 2005-2009 estimates) and that we need to know more about them in order to stay ahead of the rising needs.

Now the challenge is to take the results of the growing body of research and ensure that it informs the practice, supporting evidence-based best practices and programs.