Commentary: You Go, Grandma!

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, October 19, 2007

I’m at the early end of the baby boom, so the article in the New York Times caught my eye. Grandmothers, it said, were the key to human evolution. Really?

In seeking to understand why human females, unlike most animals, survive years after their ability to reproduce has evaporated, anthropologists came up with the “grandmother hypothesis.” It holds that with reproduction no longer an issue, older women are able to channel their energies into helping their children and grandchildren survive.

In hunter gatherer societies, it is the women in their 50, 60s and 70s who do the hardest work: carry the heaviest loads, spend seven or eight hours a day foraging for food. Nursing mothers depend not on their hunter husbands, but on grandma, to provide for their nutritional needs.

Anyone paying attention can see parallels in our modern world as well. Young mothers rushing off to works depend on grandmas to baby sit or pick the kids up after school. Even when there are no children, it’s older women who keep churches, charities and civic organizations afloat.

So – getting old, turning gray? Don’t despair. Get to work.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.