- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 6, 2000

Most grandparents have regular, meaningful and "very positive" contact with their grandchildren, the nation's largest advocacy group for retirees has found.
Eating together is the No. 1 activity shared by the two generations, and more than 80 percent of grandparents have monthly contact by phone or in person, says the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) survey of 823 grandparents.
The survey "paints a wonderful picture of strong bonds across the generations," AARP official Katie Sloan said at a press conference yesterday.
AARP released its findings a week before the U.S. Supreme Court takes up its first case on grandparent visitation rights.
The group has filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the grandparents in the case, Troxel vs. Granville, which will be heard Jan. 12.
Sixty million Americans are grandparents, said Ms. Sloan. She said 47 is the average age to become a grandparent.
The study found many grandparents are actively involved in their grandchildren's lives:
* Eighty-two percent have seen a grandchild in the past month while 85 percent have talked to a grandchild on the phone during that time.
* Seventy-two percent of grandparents have have shared a meal with a grandchild and more than 75 percent have bought a gift for a grandchild in the past month. The median amount spent each year on grandchildren was $489.
* Besides eating together, watching TV, shopping for clothes and playing a sport together were top activities.
* Forty-nine percent of grandparents said they were most often a "companion" or "friend" to their grandchild.
* Eight percent of grandparents said they regularly cared for their grandchildren while 3 percent said they were raising a grandchild.
More than 80 percent of grandparents reported "very positive" relationships with both their children and grandchildren. However, there are exceptions such as the Troxel case.
Grandparents Gary and Jenifer Troxel, who live in Washington state, are pitted against their former daughter-in-law Tommie Granville Wynn over visitation of granddaughters Natalie and Isabelle.
The Troxel's son and the girls' father, Brad Troxel, committed suicide in 1993. Mrs. Wynn remarried and her new husband adopted the girls.
In 1995, the Troxels were awarded visitation of a weekend each month, a week during the summer and four hours on the girls' birthdays.
Mrs. Wynn later objected to the visits and sued to have them eliminated. The Troxels fought the change but lost their visitation rights in rulings upheld by the Washington Supreme Court.
"Parents have a right to limit visitation of their children with third persons," the state court ruled, ranking parental rights a fundamental liberty interest.
The Troxel case will be the first of its kind to go before the U.S. Supreme Court. All 50 states have legislated court-ordered visitation for grandparents.
Six of the justices Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are grandparents.

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