Today is Grandparents Day. Unlike other Hallmark holidays, this is a worthwhile observance that falls under the radar too often. Grandparents occupy a special place in our society. Studies show that children benefit when grandmas and grandpas are involved in their lives. The reverse it true, too – a study by Boston College showed that grandparents who have an emotionally close relationship with their grandchildren show fewer symptoms of depression than other people their age.

In Lake Havasu City, it’s clear that many grandparents are playing the role of parents again, joining the 2.7 million grandparents around the nation who act as primary caregivers for children. A recent Arizona study showed the percentage of children living with their grandparents rose from 11.2 percent in 2010 to 14.2 percent just two years later. These grandparents are heroes for stepping in to the demanding – and expensive – role of parent again when they should be enjoying their golden years.

And yet, there are a number of children in this county who need that kind of attention from adults. That’s why the Civic Service Institute at Northern Arizona University is seeking volunteers over 55 years old to work in its Foster Grandparent Program in Mohave County. The program pairs senior volunteers with students who could use the extra attention. Volunteering might mean helping a preschooler master social skills such as listening and sharing, or helping an older child catch up on reading comprehension, doing math drills or get caught up on missing assignments. More than a simple tutoring gig, the foster grandparent program allows mature adults to act as role models in the lives of children who need that kind of nurturing.

Like the Boston College research, NAU’s own study of its program showed that after two years of service, first-time foster grandparents reported improvements in health, decreased depression and less social isolation. The program provides opportunities for personal growth, a chance to make new friends and a sense of accomplishment. In addition to helping others, volunteers get a tax-free stipend of $2.65 an hour, reimbursement for mileage and supplemental insurance coverage.

So far, the program is mostly active in Kingman and Golden Valley, but organizers hope to expand it to Havasu. Interested? Call 866-856-3017 or 928-715-2200.

Grandparents, whether blood related or volunteers, fill a vital role in our society. They deserve to be celebrated today – and every day. If you’re fortunate enough to still have grandma and grandpa in your life, be sure to tell them how much you appreciate them.

— Today’s News-Herald

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