New AARP Study Takes a Close Look at America’s Grandparents

AARP’s newest research study, highlighting the latest trends, gives us a peek into the world of grandparenting, a role that millions of Americans now take on in their later years. This number has steadily grown, from 56 million in 2001 to a whopping 70 million today.

The youngest grandparent is about 38 years old, with 50 being the average age of becoming a first-time grandparent, notes Brittne Nelson-Kakulla, AARP Research’s Senior Research. For those with children, by age 65, 96 percent of Americans are grandparents, she says.

“Today’s grandparents are an economic force that cannot be ignored,” said Alison Bryant, senior vice president of research, AARP, in an April 8 statement with the release of this 40-page report. “They are living longer, working longer, shattering stereotypes and supporting their grandchildren in a variety of ways, including financially and culturally. Nearly all grandparents are providing some sort of financial support, helping to ease the costs of raising kids,” notes Bryant.

Grandparents Pump Billion’s into Nation’s Economy

According to AARP’s study, 70 million grandparents can have a major impact on the nation’s economy. Grandparents spend money on their grandchildren, an average of $2,562 annually, this equaling approximately $179 billion dollars per year. Those dollars are spent supporting their grandchildren in a variety of ways, from helping to pay day-to-day expenses (meals, groceries, etc.) allowances, vacations, and school/college tuition costs.

The study found that grandparents have, on average, four to five grandchildren, down from six to seven in 2011. The number of grandparents in the workforce has increased in the past seven years, with 40 percent of grandparents currently employed up from 24 percent in 2011.

Grandparents enjoy the positive aspects of grandparenting such as supporting dreams and sharing roots, history and culture, and experiences, says the AARP study, but they face financial challenges, too. Thirteen percent of grandparent’s struggle with the financial expectations of being a grandparent, including the cost of education, traveling to see the grandchildren.

Seven percent of grandparents have taken on debt to help their grandchildren pay for college and one in four of those grandparents have even cosigned private student loans for their grandchildren and/or incurred credit card debt that has not yet been paid back in full.

Over the decades, the role of grandparenting has remained consistent, observes the AARP study. Grandchildren continue to refer to grandparents as “grandma” or “grandpa” (70 percent to 60 percent respectively). But, one in twenty of the grandparent respondents prefer to be called by their first name.

Serving as a Source of Wisdom

Eighty one percent of the grandparent respondents say they play a key role in their grandchildren’s life. Over half say that they serve as a “moral compass” to the grandchildren on variety of issues ranging from education, morals to values. But they say that discussing topics on sexuality and politics are way “out of their comfort zone.”

Grandparents also see the importance of teaching gender equality and rising the be strong, independent woman, too, says the AARP study.

Thirty four percent of the grandparents say they have grandchildren of mixed or difference races or ethnicities. Nearly all of the respondents believe it is important that these grandchildren know about the heritage they share. Seven in ten make an effort to help their grandchildren learn about the heritage they do not share, says Nelson-Kakulla.

Sixty eight percent say that distance is the biggest obstacle that keeps them from getting enough one-on-one time with their grandchildren. Fifty two percent of the survey respondents have at least one grandchild who lives or 200 miles away, while 29 percent live over 50 miles from the closest grandchild, up from 19 percent in 2011. Like distance, busy full-or part-time work schedules keep grandparents as well as schedules of their children and grandchildren keep them from connecting.

Grandparents are turning away from making phone calls to maintain contact with their grandchildren, turning to new technologies like email, Facebook, Video Chat and Texting to bridge the mileage gap. Forty seven percent “like” the idea of group texting messages to chat with their grandchildren and 67 percent “like” the idea of using online video chatting to keep in touch.

Finally, 89 percent of the grandparent respondents say their relationship with their grandchildren is good for their well-being and 67 percent believe this role makes them more sociable. Sixty six percent say having grandchildren makes them more active, too.

AARP’s 21-minute online survey of 2,654 grandparents ages 38 and was conducted between August 20 and September 4, 2018.by Hotspex, Inc.

For a copy of AARP’s 2018 Grandparents Today National Survey, contact Brittne Nelson- Kakulla, Senior Research Advisor, AARP Research, at bkakulla@aarp.org.

LRI Graduates Give Sage Advice to President Trump

Published in Woonsocket Call on September 3, 2017

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” — Thomas Jefferson

With the dust settling after the surprising victory of GOP Candidate Donald Trump last November, the news analysis on the election results clearly revealed that America is a divided nation of red states and blue states, either leaning Republican or Democrat. Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign and into President Trumps 226 days in office, personal attacks are a very common occurrence on Face Book if the person disagrees with your posting.

Jeffersonian Dinners: Finding a Common Purpose

We have lost our way in agreeing to disagree on political issues. We are no longer able to civilly discuss our differences on issues. How can a politically divided nation relearn how to have civil political dialogue to find a bridge between our differing political philosophies and positions on policies. Here’s Leadership Rhode Island’s answer.

Last January, LRI released its second book in three years. “Dear President Trump,” a compilation of 31 letters written by LRI alumni who attended 1 of 13 structured “Jeffersonian Dinners” held across the state in 2016. The attendees began each dinner conversation answering the question, “When faced with ideological or principle-based differences with another, how did you and the other party find common ground and/or progress?”

Each letter compiled in this 32-page book was written “to the office/position and not the person,” as submissions and selections were made prior to the Presidential election on Nov. 8, 2016. “Given the emotional nature of this year’s presidential election, which might be best described as identity politics at its most divisive, we thought advice from accomplished Rhode Island leaders from different sectors and industries to our incoming president would be gladly received by the next President and the citizens of Rhode Island,” said Mike Ritz, Executive Director of Leadership Rhode Island, in a statement.

“There’s much wisdom and perspective inside.” In all, about 30% of the 111 dinner attendees – corporate executives, small business owners, directors of state agencies, elected officials, executive directors of non-profits, retirees, and veterans – submitted a 300-word letter which began with “Dear President.” Inserted between letters are quotes by each of the 44 U.S. Presidents, which were curated by Dr. Jane Nugent, a 1995 graduate of Leadership Rhode Island and LRI’s volunteer project advisor.

Sage Words of Advice

Here are a few snippets of advice in letters from LRI graduates…

Tricia O’ Neil, LRI ‘09, Family Wealth Director and Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley, asks the incoming president to remember: “You are no longer a Democrat or Republican; you are now the leader of the greatest country in the world. Regardless of party, we are a rightfully proud country that continues to hold the truths of our Declaration of Independence, all the freedoms it stands for, as self-evident. Sometimes we will agree with your stances and sometimes we will not, but if you talk to us with honesty, patience and understanding, and stay consistent and steadfast, we will all successfully grow together.”

Jerauld Adams, LRI ’14, President of North American Industries, Inc., urges the new president to: “Find the strength to negotiate a middle ground on issues and policies so that your team will lead responsibly and will gain respect. Americans need you to be strong; they crave someone they can look up to. As the earth grows smaller, we need a more united America.”

Mayor Scott Avedisian, LRI ’97, of Warwick, gives his thoughts to the incoming president, too: “When dealing with the opposition, please find ways to agree and to disagree without vilifying them. Lead this nation by being an example of calm, allowing all to have their say and make decisions that exemplify the best in all people and all things.”

The “Jeffersonian Dinner” series, which provoked the idea for the book, will continue by Leadership Rhode Island in 2017. Leadership Rhode Island is currently in talks with other organizations outside of the state to collaborate on a national initiative for helping citizens talk through their differences productively and with civility, an action which Ritz says is desperately needed to heal a divided country after very contentious and negative election campaigns.

Adds, Matt Coupe, LRI’s Alumni & Community Engagement Liaison, the idea for Jeffersonian Dinners came out of a series of alumni focus groups held in early 2016 regarding membership benefits. “Alumni told us they wanted to connect with each other in more intimate settings than the large parties and networking events we often host, and they wanted to discuss topics of substance, says Coupe.

According to Coupe, Maryellen Butke, of Providence-based Namaste Consulting who graduated from LRI in 2008, introduced the concept of Jeffersonian Dinners, which had been developed by Jeffrey Walker at the Monticello Foundation, to LRI. Walker wrote a book, called The Generosity Network, in which he describes the Dinners as being modeled after dinner parties that Thomas Jefferson had once hosted at Monticello. Jefferson’s idea was to bring people of different backgrounds together to discuss topics of importance, so he could hear multiple perspectives on various issues he was facing.

LRI launched its Jeffersonian Dinner series in March 2016, after a few months of initial planning. Each dinner took about a month to plan, said Coupe, noting that the nonprofit organization did not even any expenses in planning these dinners, other than some minor advertising costs and staff time. “Thanks to the generosity of Paul O’Reilly, President and CEO of the Newport Restaurant Group (graduating LRI in 1995), we were able to host six dinners at his restaurants [22 Bowen’s Avvio, Castle Hill Inn, Trio, and the Waterman Grille] at no cost to us. The rest of the Dinners were hosted and paid for by individual alumni, held a t the Hope Club, University Club and in their homes” he said.

LRI has recently conducted an online survey of participants, which showed an overwhelming consensus of agreement that the conversations held at the Dinners were valuable in and of themselves, even if they didn’t always change someone else’s way of thinking, says Coupe. “We view this as a validation of the Jeffersonian Dinner model, since their purpose is to expose participants to different viewpoints, not necessarily to build consensus,” he says.

LRI continues to hold its Jeffersonian Dinners in 2017 and plans to continue for at least another year, says Coupe, with the goal of eventually host inviting LRI graduates and the general public to participate. We want to eventually spread the word about the value of Jeffersonian Dinners outside Rhode Island with assistance from the Monticello Foundation and the national Association of Leadership Programs (ALP),” he says.

Now, is the time to work together to build a better American and world by learning how to discuss our differences and finding the root of compromise. Jeffersonian Dinners organized throughout the nation my just be the answer to bringing a politically divided country together.

Let’s hope that a copy of “Dear President Trump,” finds it’s way to Trump’s desk. It’s a great read.

Books may be purchased for $20 (domestic shipping included) online at http://bit.ly/dearpresidentbook or by credit card over the phone at 401-273-1574. About Leadership Rhode Island Leadership Rhode Island is a nationally awarded community leadership development nonprofit organization, founded in 1981, with over 2000 graduates across the state of Rhode Island. For more information about Leadership Rhode Island, visit http://www.LeadershipRI.org

Save the Roses and Try These Tips: Six Ways to Improving Communication at Home

Published in the Woonsocket Call on February 5, 2017

Effective Communication at home with your husband, wife, or partner is key to maintaining a meaningful, healthy, environment and thriving family. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, Author Donna Mac, a well-known corporate trainer, based in South Eastern, Massachusetts, with 25 years of experience in the broadcasting industry, translates effective corporate communication into tips for use in enhancing communication with your loved ones.

According to Mac, sexual infidelity, commonly linked to divorce, is not the leading cause for couples separating. The corporate communications expert notes that a recent article in Psychology Today says that whether a partner’s communication “lifts you up or brings you down” is the single largest predictor of divorce.

So, mastering your communication skills may be the best Valentine’s Day gift you can give, much better than a dozen roses. Mac, founder & president of Rehoboth, MA-based DMacVoice Communications, explains her Six Pillars Of Effective Communication which can bring healthy energy into an ailing relationship and bring you closer together with your loved one.

Six Pillars of Effective Communication

“The first pillar in becoming a more effective communicator,” says Mac, noting this “is tied to ‘knowing and owning who you are.’ That means your strengths and vulnerabilities. You must be comfortable with who you are and understand that you have a right to communicate what you are thinking and feeling.” She cautions us to be careful to always communicate as calmly and respectfully as possible. Don’t wait to communicate until emotions build up to the point where that is not possible.

“Also, get a sense for whether you are you an extrovert or an introvert”. Mac notes that this will influence how you interact with your partner. According to Mac, communication tends to flows more easily for extroverts. Introverts need more time to process before they speak, but they are usually better listeners.

She also cautions against being a passive, or even a passive-aggressive communicator. Both of these styles are non-productive but they are easy to fall into. Often times it feels easier to be a passive communicator because being an effective communicator take courage and work. “These days, it’s easy to hide behind our computer screens,” she says.

The second Pillar calls for the need to understand your partner. “Understand how your personality and communication style differs from that of your loved one,” suggests Mac, who says that there are differences as well as varying points of view in every relationship. “When you disagree, be open to the possibility that either of you may be “right” or “wrong” or a bit of both. Be open to learning something new. It is also important to make it easy for your partner to share his or her vulnerabilities and ask for your help. “Create a safe space for communications by allowing and encouraging your partner to communicate often and to be authentic,” she adds.

To use a phrase from her book, you can continue to “understand your audience” over the years by listening intently and often.

Pillar three encourages you to “master the content of the conversation” you are about to have. She stresses the need to be clear on what it is you would like to say especially if you have to have a challenging conversation.

Mac says, “You may need to practice how you are going to broach an extremely difficult topic. Do your best to speak in a way that is compelling but concise and has the best interest of both of you. Instead of accusing your partner of something, talk about the way that issue has affected you. Remember, they might not know if you don’t’ tell them. Also, try not to ramble. Instead, state your case with clarity and the most positive energy you can muster. If their actions are unacceptable, know where your boundaries lie and clearly and calmly state them.”

Put Yourself Into Their Shoes

Pillar four calls for you to “anticipate questions and reactions” to conversations.” Mac recommends, while you want to make sure you get your point across, ensure that you’ve taken time to put yourself into your partner’s shoes. “Life isn’t easy for anyone. But if you take time to think about and anticipate how they may feel or react to your topic you won’t be so quick to react emotionally and with harsh words and energy.

By anticipating reaction you will be able become more proactive in your relationship, she says, noting that, “your partner will appreciate it.”

“Remember, effective communication in a trusted relationship takes time, thought and occasional discomfort,” says Mac.

Pillar five suggests that you “speak to serve” in your conversations. “When you ‘serve’ the person you’re speaking with, you are taking time to make sure that the conversation is not “all about you”. It’s for the benefit of you, for them and for the greater good of the relationship or even the entire family!” says Mac. “When you serve while speaking, you are making sure that understanding is taking place. If you’re not sure that it is, you might want to say something like, “is this making sense to you?”

Finally, Pillar six calls for you to “detach from the outcome” of the conversation. “If you follow the first 5 Pillars of Effective Communication you will be well on your way to becoming a highly effective communicator. But you aren’t quite there yet!” states Mac. It is very important that you don’t try to control your partner’s reaction.

Instead of concerning yourself with perfection, remain flexible and detached, knowing that total agreement is never possible. Plus, it’s really unimportant. What is important is the health and strength of your relationship and two powerful voices, even if they don’t always see eye to eye,” she adds.

Don’t Try to Change Others, Change Yourself

Mac suggests that if you want to become an effective communicator, don’t focus on changing the other person. We have no control over other people, only ourselves. “So work on changing what you can change in your communication style so that you can communicate in compelling and influential ways”.

While Mac’s Six Pillars Of Effective Communication can be directed to couples, look at the recommendations and try replacing “romantic” partner with “business” partner or someone you’re collaborating with at work. And replace “the entire family” with “the entire department or company in Pillar five.

“These communication tips are universal and are the foundation for healthy professional AND personal relationships. The are not easy to integrate into our lives, but the more you use them, the quicker they’ll become part of who you are and how you communicate.”

Donna Mac is author of Guide to a RICHER LIFE–Know Your Worth, Find Your Voice & Speak Your Mind and The Six Pillars of Effective Communication. She is also a keynote speaker and private coach. For more details, go to http://www.dmacvoice.com.