Sir Mick Jagger and the great-grandparent club: why more of us will know our children's children's children

Sir Mick Jagger is about to become a member of a growing new club – great-grandparenthood. Samuel Muston finds out why more of us will know our children’s children’s children

In roughly five months' time Mick Jagger will join one of the most exclusive clubs in Britain. He will become, for the first time, at the age of 70, a great-grandfather. In an interview at the weekend, Jade Jagger announced that her elder daughter, Assisi, 21, will make her a grandmother at the age of 42.

Sir Mick, who is 70, is said to have responded to the news with the words, "Well done", as if she had just pulled off a particularly difficult forehand lob.

Assisi explained: "I imagine it's nice to be a great-granddad – although I'm not sure he likes the idea of getting old, or being called one."

Perhaps he doesn't much like the idea of becoming a great-grandfather, but at least Jagger can take solace in the fact that he's keeping good company.

After all, both the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are in the G-G club, being great-grandparents to Prince George and Savannah Phillips. As is Julie Andrews, star of The Sound of Music, and Leonard Nimoy, star of Star Trek. While that other screen legend, Sidney Poitier, wrote the book on great-grandparenting, literally: it's called Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter, and is published by Pocket Books.

It isn't just pampered royalty – real or Hollywood – who are living long enough to meet their great-grandchildren. In recent years, a demographic change has begun to affect the make-up of our families: these days, family trees are long (with more generations) but thin (with fewer children in each).

As Sam Smethers, chief executive of the charity Grandparents Plus, points out, grandparents are often no longer the oldest in their families. "Sixty-two per cent of grandparents have at least one older relative still alive [although not necessarily a parent]," she says.

It is a trend being seen across the Western world. Professor Anna Rotkirch, a sociologist specialising in comparative research on European families, suggests that "a very tentative guess would be that around 10 per cent of young children in Western societies have one great-grandparent". The reason is simple: increased longevity.

As healthcare and diet have improved over the past half-century, so the number of very old people has grown. Now, more than ever before, people are living long enough to see their children's children's children.

That said, there is a counteracting population trend: people are giving birth when they are older. Still, though, that has been a modest development in comparison.

"There are more great-grandparents alive today than ever before," says David Coleman, professor of demography at Oxford University. "The increase in life expectancy, and past population growth, will have substantially counteracted the opposite effect from later childbearing," he says.

The notion of a great-grandparent is such a recent anthropological innovation that as a role it is often ill-defined. Research by Professor Rachel Caspari, of Central Michigan University, suggests that grandparents played a key role in the evolution of mankind when the "granddaddy" generation began to appear 30,000 years ago, as they took on some foraging and childcare duties, relieving some pressure on the generation below them – a situation familiar to many of Britain's current pensioners. There exist no such theories on the role of the great-grandparent.

As Professor Rotkirch points out, the relationship between great-grandparent and grandchild is "a genetically distant one". Indeed in 2007, 57 per cent of people surveyed said they couldn't name any of their great-grandparents. At least Mick Jagger can take succour from the fact that it is unlikely that Assisi's child will forget his name any time soon.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
Wigan Athletic’s back-of-the shirt sponsor Premier Range has pulled out due to Malky Mackay’s arrival
Football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

    Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

    £30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

    Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

    Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

    Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

    Day In a Page

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines