Extraordinary Elders: Carolyn Jackson

Carolyn Jackson & grandkids Heather Johnson - Redux

I often meet elders who really blow me away with the things they do - their dedication to causes, their countenance and attitude and their hard-earned wisdom. I use the term "elders" because I believe it does not imply any specific age - it simply refers to people who are "older than you" who are valued for their influence and personal accomplishments in their families, communities and in society in general. It signifies respect for those who've forged the path ahead of us. In this blog, I will introduce you to some of the fantastic elders I meet. I hope they inspire you as much as they inspire me.

  Carolyn Jackson


Carolyn, a 55 year old grandmother, is one of six grandparents highlighted in my column this month, Grandparents on a Mission. I've known Carolyn for many years and she is one of those people who I marvel at - how does she keep on going despite all the set-backs? She founded Grandparents on the Move, a school-based support group for grandparents raising grandchildren in New Haven, CT. With up to 60 grandparents attending monthly meetings, it's one of the largest ongoing support groups I've come across.

Carolyn knows first-hand about the challenges these grandparents face - she's been raising 3 grandchildren herself for over 10 years. One is her son's child and the other two are not, but they share the same mother, who has been in and out of the criminal justice system. One child was born drug-addicted.  Carolyn has struggled with enormous legal, health, emotional and lifestyle issues. "The wear and tear on your body and mind is unbelievable. I thought I was free at last and all of a sudden here comes a little child who changed everything."

Retired after 23 years in the New Haven school system, she has suffered two strokes...and yet she keeps on persevering on behalf of grandparents and grandchildren.

 "We can't stop now - most of our grandchildren are still young and we still need services and help and resources - it hasn't ended yet! There will always be a new challenge - health issues, college education..."


GrandRally

Carolyn was determined to lead New Haven grandparents to Washington, DC to take part in national GrandRally on Capitol Hill events to raise awareness about the roles they play and their grandchildren's needs. With support from AARP CT and other local partners and businesses, they raised enough money to pile into buses and go to Washington, DC - not just for the first GrandRally in 2003, but again in 2005 and 2008.  

"It changed everything - we found out we were not the only ones and we had a voice."


And this September, when the 4th national GrandRally is held on Capitol Hill, I have no doubt that Carolyn and the Grandparents on the Move will be there making their voices heard, driven by their love for their grandchildren and their passion to give them a better life.

Search AARP Blogs

Related Posts
February 04, 2016 09:00 AM
When Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I knew he would need all of his senses to help interpret the world around him and balance his changing cognitive abilities. But he has hearing impairment and limited vision (glaucoma plus visual-processing problems associated with Alzheimer’s). Even though there is only so much I can do about the visual issues, I assumed  hearing aids would solve his auditory problems. I was wrong. The good news is that we eventually discovered a surprisingly simple solution.
February 01, 2016 10:00 AM
The phone rang one day when I was at work. It was my mom. “Come right away, Elaine, we need you,” she said. Mom had just driven Pop to the emergency room. I knew Pop must have been very sick, because Mom hadn’t driven a car in years.
January 21, 2016 01:00 PM
I have been both a live-in caregiver and a long-distance caregiver. In fact, currently, I’m really both. My dad lives with me (as do my sister and her two sons at the moment), and I also travel for work, about a week every month. I’ve learned to manage my loved ones’ care no matter where I am. Here are some of my tips for other long-distance caregivers.