How whale grandmas help their families survive

Every day, I read what other journalists are writing about grandparents and their families. Here are the pieces that gripped me in March:

Post-menopausal orcas’ wisdom helps family survive

Whales need grandmas too, it turns out.

Like women, female orcas stop bearing young around age 40 but survive into their 80s or 90s.

Anthropologists have long believed that post-menopausal longevity evolved in women so they could ensure the survival of their grandchildren; female orcas may outlive menopause for the same reason, according to a new study.

Orca families are often led by older females, the study found, probably because they’re savvy about where and when to find food.

“It’s probably accumulated experience,” study author Darren Croft, an ecologist at the University of Exeter, told New Scientist. “Anyone who fishes for migratory trout or salmon will tell you that timing is key, that the fish return in particular cycles of tides and times of the year. Post-menopausal females probably get to know where to look and when.”

“This is the first study showing these post-menopausal orca females act as repositories for important knowledge,” Croft said. “They essentially store important survival information.”

“There’s a tipping point where they stop reproducing and help their offspring instead, as do grandmothers in the human context,” Croft said.

New Scientist • March 5, 2015

92-year-old elementary school pupil inspires a generation in Kenya

Priscilla Sitienei at her elementary school. Photo by the BBC.

Priscilla Sitienei at her elementary school. Photo by the BBC.

“I had grandchildren and great-grandchildren who shunned school,” Priscilla Sitienei, a midwife who wasn’t formally educated as a kid and is now in fourth grade, told CNN. “That made me mad. I decided I have to show them that education is important.”

CNN • March 2, 2015

new excursions for grandparents and their grandchildren 

The Arenal volcano in Costa Rica. Photo Ilene Perlman for Road Scholar.

The Arenal volcano in Costa Rica. Photo by Road Scholar.

Do you have college-aged grandkids? Want to take them somewhere cool? There are tours just for you.

The New York Times • March 27, 2015

Paradise and the grandparent tariff

For Hawaiian grandparents, it’s either feast or famine. Photo by P.F. Bentley for Honolulu Civil Beat.

Hawaii is both isolated and expensive. What does that mean for its grandparents?

If your grandkids are also in Hawaii, you probably have an exhausting babysitting schedule, since parents don’t have much money to spare for childcare.

But if your grandkids live on the mainland, you have to settle for sporadic, all-to-brief visits.

Honolulu Civil Beat • March 5, 2015

Visiting with grandparents on-screen

Kids in Palo Alto, Calif., chat with their grandparents in Los Angeles. Photo by Nhat V. Meyer for the Bay Area News Group.

When kids and their grandparents live nowhere near one another, does technology bring them closer?

“There’s something intrinsically odd about the American condition, where everybody is thousands of miles away from each other,” John Rosenman of San Mateo, Calif., whose granddaughter lives in Texas, told the San Jose Mercury News. “And I’m just glad to have an opportunity to work around it.”

San Jose Mercury News • February 25, 2015

We get the kids back”: Native American grandmother fights to preserve families

Too many Native kids are being forced into foster care, a grandmother on the Crow Creek reservation in South Dakota told The Guardian. She’s fighting to reunite these children with their parents, grandparents, and tribes.

The Guardian • March 2, 2015

Retirees and their homes: they want it their way

Instead of moving to the Sun Belt, grandparents are sticking around and turning their empty nests into places “where the kids and grandkids can come and stay and have fun and make memories,” according to a recent study.

Next Avenue • March 6, 2015