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More Than Our Golden Girls

In my nine years on Facebook, I've seen all kinds of posts. I was a senior in college when I joined, and photos back then - the few that friends uploaded to "random pics" albums - were from formals, study abroad, graduation. Slowly, engagements and bachelor/ette parties started trickling into the mix. Now that I'm 30, it's weddings, reunions, houses, babies.

Selfie! Shira and her bubbeleh

Something new is happening in my Newsfeed these days, though, and I can't "like" it enough: grandmas.

From my friend Cassandra in Chicago:

She's turning 90 this month. I wish I were half as cool as my grandma! #hipgrandma

From my friend Tanner in New York:

This Week's Office Flowers: Peonies, exactly like the ones that grew in Grandma's backyard around this time of year.

From my friend Shira in Los Angeles:

"When you have health, you have wealth. Now put a hat on so you don't catch a cold." -Estelle Levine (a.k.a. Bubbeleh), 100

There are plenty of grandmas (and grandpas) with Facebook accounts, posting on their own behalf, and that's great! Come one, come all. But this particular trend intrigues me. These are friends in their 20s, 30s, even sometimes 40s, who have spent years with their grandparents, well into adulthood, well into the "real world." They love them and they respect them, and they're proud of them - so proud that they shout it from the rooftops. Or, today's equivalent: from their Facebook walls.

The New York Times recently published an article about my generation's fascination with older people - how we admire the pluck and the freedom of our elders, and how we've collectively decided that grandparents (e.g. Betty White, Ian McKellen) and grandparent-esque styles (cardigans, macrame) are cool.

Muumuus, an obsession that started with hand-me-down housedresses from Dibi

I love the essay, and I agree. Just ask anyone about my muumuu collection! But it goes beyond that. It goes beyond lifestyle inspiration and the idea of "grandma chic." For a good and growing number of us, our grandparents are our mentors, our confidantes, our friends we can't stop posting about.

Over the years, our grandparents, as the essay points out, have always been there. People are living longer than ever before, which means we have more time together than ever before. So now, I'll argue, it's our turn to be there for them. It's time for us, the grown-up grandchildren, to become part of the caregiving equation.

When I moved to New York City seven years ago, I'd call my 90-year-old Pop Pop from the sidewalk or from the back seat of a taxi, and we'd talk about life. We were both on our own for the first time: Me, alone in a crappy sublet, without a network or a safety net called college; Pop Pop, alone in his house, without his wife, my grandmother Dibi, who was in the late stages of Alzheimer's Disease and needed round-the-clock care. I called my mom and dad, too, but they were busy in a way that Pop Pop and I, an entry-level assistant, just weren't. They'd be rushing into meetings or off to dinners while Pop Pop would be sitting in his chair, ready to talk.

What I'm getting at is that there's a natural call to action here. We need to be involved and help these friends of ours, these key players in our lives, these trendsetters we treasure. Here are some ways to start:

Visit or call or write or FaceTime. Or all four and then some. It sounds simple, but a little communication goes a long way towards combating isolation, which affects a person's entire well-being.

Colin's Gram and Pop

Be the eyes and ears. Our parents might be making the ultimate care decisions, but we can collect information, pass it along to the rest of the family and then be in on the conversations.

Show and tell. Love your grandmother's tamales? Show her and tell her by requesting the recipe or, even better, a one-on-one tamale-making session with her. Upload her recipe and story to Beyond Bubbie for an added bonus. If something means a lot, make sure they know.

Connect them. Always be on the lookout for classes or services your loved ones may enjoy. You might find the  Eldercare Locator useful for such classes (1-800-677-1116). Callers are put in touch with their  Area Agency on Aging, whose staffers know all kinds of local programs (senior centers, transportation services) available for seniors.

Keep on posting. On Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram - care, and pass it on. Just last week, my friend Colin posted a Gatsby-inspired photo of his grandparents for Throwback Thursday: "Gram and Pop, dapper as all get-out. #tbt"

Are you or your children part of your family's caregiving equation? If so, how?


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