Borrowed Grandfathers – If Men of Older Age Care

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 18:18
Oral Presentation
Birgit BLÄTTEL-MINK, Goethe-University Frankfurt/Main, Germany
Luigi WENZL, Goethe-University Frankfurt/Main, Germany
What if old, i.e. aging, men in transition and/or during retirement engage in intergenerational and extra-familiar care relations? The phenomenon of older men who decide to care for young children who are not related by blood is still a niche phenomenon and has until now found very little scientific attention. If we consider the increasing number of people of old age, the increasing occupation related mobility and the increasing share of female workforce within Western industrialized countries and the economic, cultural, political and social effects, borrowed grandfathership might play an increasingly important role in society.

But, why do aging men engage in such a care relation, how does the care practice look like and what effects does it have on processes of “doing aging”? The discussion of the care-crisis, and the debate about active aging are, as we suggest, fruitful approaches to explore this phenomenon. Furthermore, borrowed grandfathership may also challenge hegemonic masculinity and concepts of grandparentship as such.

In order to get insights into the practice of borrowed grandfathership we carried out semi-structured interviews with men involved in such care relations and with a small control group of women in a federal state of Germany. One result being that borrowed grandfathership seems to be pushed by a female partner or closer friends being involved in such care relations. Secondly, borrowed grandfathership very often is initiated by a sense of regret of not having been a good father to one’s own children due to occupational duties.

In this paper we will present further results of our research as well as some thoughts on the social relevance of this phenomenon in future. It would be very interesting to get some insights of borrowed grandfathership in other countries, i.e. differing social-cultural frames.