When I was 13 years old, I boarded an airplane to Greece with my Yiayia (that’s Greek for grandma) and my cousin Alex. We headed to our family’s homeland for a six-week vacation, which – unbeknownst to me – coincided with my mom’s breast cancer surgery and recovery.
My Yiayia had been tasked with traveling some 5,000 miles away with two teenagers who drove her crazy – one for his antics and the other for her wardrobe.
At 13, I resembled a 17-year-old, and my conservative Yiayia did not approve of the tank tops and tube tops I wore in the 100-plus degree weather.
The clothing battle, which resulted in several calls to my mom back home, was just a portion of that memorable trip.
We had fun, of course, and my Yiayia kept it together for me while dealing with the fact that her own daughter was facing health issues at home.
It has been 19 years since that trip and eight since my Yiayia passed away. That vacation and the time I spent with her beyond those six weeks left an imprint on my heart and helped shape the woman I am today.
I hope my son shares a trip like that with my parents someday. With the rise of a new vacation trend, I have no doubt that he will.
The trend is called gramping and it’s a skip-gen – or skip-a-generation – trip that involves grandparents (or great grandparents) traveling with their grandkids sans mom and dad.
The intergenerational vacation, which according to a 2017 AARP survey is on the bucket list of 83 percent of baby boomers, boasts big benefits for all.
“It’s definitely a positive for everyone, because mom and dad get a bit of a break while grandkids get to bond more with their grandparents and vice versa,” says Stacey M. Ruff, D.O, a board-certified geriatrician at Beaumont Geriatric Center in Berkley.
Families don’t have to travel far to reap the benefits, either. Read on for more about this trend, plus ideas on how to make it work for your own family.
Derek Stogner, older adult services manager for the city of Novi, fondly remembers the fishing outings and camping trips he took with his great-grandfather during his childhood. The time they spent together impacted Stogner’s life in many ways.
“He was a lot of what shaped me morally as a person and gave me my views of what’s right and wrong, how to treat people and how to have good relationships,” he says.
Today, Stogner works with seniors in the Novi community and sees firsthand the benefits of the grandparent-grandchild bond.
“There’s a lot of value that comes out of that (bond),” he says, including socialization and an active lifestyle for seniors.
And that’s huge for older adults, Ruff adds.
“One of the best things that helps with aging is staying socially connected,” she says. Whether it’s through a hobby, friends or family, it’s important for seniors to remain engaged. “In older people, it definitely benefits their mood and they have an improved sense of worth.”
Taking trips or small excursions with grandchildren not only boosts their mood, but allows them to have some special time they can share with each other. “Those memories really stick,” Ruff says.
You don’t have to travel thousands of miles away for a skip-gen vacation.
Michigan’s many parks offer grandparents and grandchildren an opportunity to spend a day together outdoors, Stogner says. Not only is it cost-effective, it gives families the chance to be active together.
“I think if they are able to do local excursions, take the kids to the zoo or take them out for ice cream,” that’s ideal, Ruff says.
If grandparents aren’t driving, even just doing what the grandkids are doing can offer big benefits. Grandchildren could show their grandparents how to play a game, Ruff suggests.
“It connects them to the younger generation and helps them feel like they know what’s going on,” she says.