THERE were 7.5 million grandparents aged 45 and older in Canada in 2017—the highest number since the data started being collected—according to the General Social Survey (GSS) on Family. This was up from 7 million in 2011 and 5.4 million in 1995, according to Statistics Canada.
While the overall number of grandparents has grown in recent years, their population share among those aged 45 and older has decreased: from 57% in 1995 to 47% in 2017.
The share of older cohorts of grandparents is increasing. For example, the share of grandparents aged 85 and older almost tripled from 1995 to 2017, rising from 3% to 8%.
One of the contributing factors to these changes in the demographic make-up of the grandparent population is women having children at a later age than in the past, a phenomenon that leads to delayed grandparenthood.
Grandmothers continued to outnumber grandfathers in Canada at 4.2 million grandmothers versus 3.3 million grandfathers. This results from the higher life expectancy of women relative to men.
With the aging of the population and delayed childbearing trends, grandparents are older now than they were in the past. Their average age was 68 in 2017, up from 65 in 1995.
As part of the 2017 GSS on Family, grandparents were also asked to report how old they were when their first grandchild was born or adopted. (This was the first time this question was asked in the GSS.) In 2017, the average age at which Canadians first became a grandparent was 51 for women and 54 for men.
The number of grandchildren per grandparent (aged 45 and older) has declined since the 1990s, averaging four in 2017, down from five in 1995.
Overall, more than three-quarters of grandparents had fewer than five grandchildren, compared with 43% in 1995.
Foreign-born grandparents are twice as likely to live with their grandchildren
The proportion of grandparents sharing a home with at least one of their grandchildren is small, and has remained fairly steady over time. In 2017, 5% of grandparents aged 45 and older lived with a grandchild, similar to the 4% observed in 1995.
Many factors can affect a person’s decision to live with one or more grandchildren, including cultural and economic factors as well as personal choice or circumstances. In some families, grandparents play an important role in caring for children and in others, families provide care for aging grandparents. According to data from the 2017 GSS, foreign-born grandparents (9%) were more likely to live with at least one grandchild than their Canadian-born counterparts (4%).