Friends, not grandkids, key to happy retirement — or not?

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April 25, 2010

Some couples who consider full-time RVing have a difficult time leaving the grandkids. In fact, sometimes it prevents a couple from making that choice or causes them to get off the road. However, a British study by the University of Greenwich found that participants who had friends or a social network were more likely to be happy in retirement. Having grandchildren mattered little.

Jaimie with her grandson at the Crayola factory.

Jaimie with one of  her grandsons at the Crayola factory.


Lead researcher Oliver Robinson, of the university’s department of psychology and counseling, said, “There are both benefits and drawbacks to the presence of children and grandchildren in retirement, which balance each other out. The positives are that having children and grandchildren imparts a sense of purpose and meaning, while the drawback is the frequent commitment for child care that can potentially interfere with the sense of freedom and autonomy that is at the heart of a positive retirement.”

American retirees express similar feelings.

In the long run, grandkids grow up and get busy with their own lives. Several RVers at a forum I participate in have said that they go visit family and barely see their children or grandchildren because they are working, have sports or other activities and want to spend time with their own friends. Of course, being part of your grandchildren’s lives is rewarding for both you and the children, but centering your lives around theirs could mean missing out on developing a network of friends that will last the rest of your life.

In my case I see my grandchildren more frequently as an RVer since I lived across the country from them before hitting the road. There would be enjoyment in being more involved and I also want to have adventures! How about you? What do you think? How have grandchildren affected your RV retirement? Are women more affected then men?

Jaimie Hall Bruzenak


Leave a Reply


  1. Pat, sounds like you are having a lot of fun! It does seem that women want to be around their grandchildren more then men. What do the rest of you think?

    And, Barry- I have to agree that the behavior of grandkids makes a big difference in my tolerance level too!


  2. Barry S

    It all depends on the grandkid. If they are fairly well-behaved and aren’t an abject pain in the neck because their parents failed to give them discipline when it was needed, they would be a joy to be around. If not, I would prefer not to be around them. I love to have fun with the kiddies, but not for weeks at a time. They can wear me out, and I have adult interests that they are not interested in. I love them dearly and enjoy visiting with them, but not for mega-long periods of time.

  3. Pat

    I became a grandma (Mimmie) late in life just 4 years ago I am now 67. There is no friend in the world that can take the place of one my grandkids looking up at me and saying “I love you Mimmie” or one of them running up to me full force and huggin my neck.

    My daughter and her husband adopted my only grandkids, twin boys about four years ago, and it has really put our trips on hold. We get out a couple times a year and as they grow will get out more often.

    As far as friends, I’ve never “needed” friends they just are not that important to me, but my family is!! We live in an RV Park and get plenty of “friends” that come from the North for 5-6 months and that is fine with me.

    But we were blessed with these 2 little guys and they are most important to me!!! Unfortunantly I can’t wait till they grow up to hit the road (do the math) so we just fit in what we can when we can. Heading for a month or so in Maine about August or so. But I will miss them the whole time we are gone. PS Hubby could leave tomorrow LOL

  4. Ron, in the quote above from the article, the lead researcher mentions “…frequent commitment for child care.” My interpretation is that if your lives are centered around your children and grandchildren in retirement, it may not leave time to develop other friends, activities and a support system. I believe there is a balance, though. The study, as I interpret it, does find that “a strong social network tended to have a major positive effect on retirees’ enjoyment of life.”

    It is wonderful that in this RV lifestyle we can visit or spend extended time with grandchildren. Maybe the lesson is to not do this to the exclusion of friends and other things that feed you.

    Judy, I admire your for stepping up to the plate with your grandson. I’ve run across a number of retirees (or wannabee retirees) who have to postpone their plans because of raising grandchildren. Kudos to you.

    Steve – I hear you- I have a few-day limit too!

    Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

  5. santa skip

    our grandkids are in Va., In Ca. and in Denver, so we can travel to see them as much as we can,off to Ca. this weekend. Unfortunally Santa has taken us away for the holidays. Who says Christmas has to be Dec.25 ??

  6. Judy

    I am wanting to hit the road so bad, but I have a 13 yr old grandson that lives with me in the summer and during Christmas break since his mother passsed over 6 yrs ago. As long as I have that joy/responsibility I do not feel I can afford to leave the job/stick & brick. Now that he is getting older, I feel he can fend for himself more and in a year or two I am off.

  7. Ron Butler


    Interesting article, but it appears to me that you didn’t give the entire scope of the article/study! I wasn’t able to see, in your orginal article, that the study referred to grandparents as a “caretaker, or caregiver”, a term that you use in your reply. I would say that would make a BIG difference in how to apply/intrepret this article!!

    I can certainly say that having to become a caretaker for your grandchildren would have a major impact, totally apart from the separation from them as you travel!!

    We leased our house in Nov. 2005, and we have traveled 4 of the past 5 years. We knew that being away from both sets of grandkids during the holiday seasons and birthdays and it was. However, it didn’t stop us from traveling and enjoying it.

    Each couple have to make the decision for themselves as to how to handle the distance from their grandchildren. My comment was that there are many grandparents that live across the country from their grandkids and only get to see them once or twice a year. We could handle that for several years.

    We are back in the northwest now, parked on my daughter and son-in-laws 5 acres and our youngest granddaughter, a 6 year old going on 18, just had dinner with us. Welcome back!! However, we will still head for warmer climates this fall!!

  8. Steve White

    We have 9 grandchildren ranging from 3 to 22 in age and spread out from east to west. We spend as much time with them and their parents as we can and the RV is a help in that regard. It is definitely true that they all have their own interests and schedules so we fit in as best we can. Speaking just for me, I enjoy spending time with them and try to keep up with their activities, usually at a distance. My limit for round the clock care (or visits for that matter) is 3 days though. I just don’t have the energy for more than that. We all seem to understand that we each need space, too. I love the rascals, but I’m glad I can hand them off to their parents, too.

  9. I’m not sure the study said you had to choose but that people who gave up friends for caretaking grandchildren were not as happy in the long run. I have met people who live their whole life for their grandchildren. I wonder what will happen when those grandchildren are living their own lives.

    It is wonderful that you can be involved in your grandchildren’s lives. It sounds like you have a balance, though and are still traveling and have other activities.


  10. Jeannie

    I do not understand people who prefer friends to their grandchildren. We have a lot of friends and enjoy being with them, but they could never replace hugs from grandchildren for us. Personally, it seems a bit narcissistic to choose friends over grandchildren. My grandparents were always close to me as a child and I still remember the games we played and the meals we shared. They were a huge and wonderful part of my growing up years and beyond. I am so happy I have been able to share this with my own grandchildren and they have all responded in kind. They range in age from 11 to 26.

    We never feel we “give up” anything to help out when needed and our children respect our right to travel when we want to – it’s just give and take on all sides. Our trips usually range from 5 to 6 weeks when traveling around the country and we take countless mid-week close-by trips. We are really happy we chose to be part of our grandchildren’s lives and believe we have the best of both worlds. You can never go back to relive what you missed, so you better not miss it the first time, is our philosophy. They grow up very quickly.