Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Losing the wisdom of the ages

By Daniel Donahoo - posted Wednesday, 1 June 2005

All that grey matter underneath the grey hair is a valuable commodity for our kids. But by delaying parenthood our society is jeopardising our inter-generational relationships. The declining birthrate doesn’t just mean fewer children. It also means fewer grandparents.

Parents wish the world for their children. They want for them tertiary education, world travel, a good career and financial stability. But as they see their wishes for their children fulfilled, they are stalling their own journey into grandparenthood.

Many young Australians are spending their 20s studying, gaining overseas experiences and then coming home and attempting to establish a career. The result is an increasing number of adults becoming parents later in life.


The average age of first-time mothers is now 30.2, and has been increasing for two decades. The average age for first-time dads is 32.5 years: an all-time high.

A child born when its mother is 35, who then doesn’t have a child until they themselves are 35 years old, will decrease the chances of developing strong inter-generational relationships. Being a first-time grandparent at 70 will always be a challenge.

It is difficult to find voices to question what the impact this loss of dynamic inter-generational relationships will mean. It demonstrates the limitations of the public debate surrounding population.

My three-year-old is fortunate to have contact with his great-great-grandmother, great-grandparents and grandparents. This is partly because we are all living longer; but it is also because he was born when I was in my early 20s.

The connection between my children and the older generation in my family is not something you can readily quantify. My son plays ball with grandpa and shares stories on great-grandma’s knee.

I tell my son that I used to do these things too. We share a sense of belonging that our family gives us, but it is more than that. My son and I bond through a shared experience of family ritual, even though we experienced those rituals over 20 years apart.


To see my 95-year-old great grandmother handing out lollies and kissing her three-year-old great-great grandson is a delightfully intangible experience that teaches my whole family something about the cycle of human life, about family and community.

My fear is that our valuing of financial security is threatening what we really hold most dear.

Grandparents are the historians of families. They pass on knowledge to younger generations and in doing so help form the identity of the succeeding generations. Grandparents are mentors and role-models. They provide a family with cohesion and provide us with a perspective of what is to come in the journey of our lives.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Article edited by Rachel Ryan.
If you'd like to be a volunteer editor too, click here.

First published in the Herald Sun on May 10, 2005.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

8 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Journalist and columist with The Age, Sushi Das says he is ‘one of today’s young rebels’. Author and ethicist Leslie Cannold has referred to him as one of her ‘gorgeous men’.

Daniel Donahoo is fellow with OzProspect, a non-partisan, public policy think tank. He writes regularly for Australia's daily papers and consults on child and family issues. A father to two boys. Daniel's first book is called Idolising Children and explores our society’s obsession with childhood and youth. Updates on Daniel's work can be found at

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Daniel Donahoo

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Daniel Donahoo
Article Tools
Comment 8 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy