Could you be a granny au pair?

Do you want to travel and explore a different culture? If so, becoming a granny au pair could be for you.

Credit: David Marsden / PAGE ONE

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Are you over 45 and keen to travel and meet new people? If so, then the Granny Au Pair agency may be what you need.

Just like their younger counterparts, granny au pairs move in with families and help out with childcare in exchange for bed and board and the chance to explore new countries.

The agency was set up in 2010 and since then it has had several thousand ‘grannies’ on its books who have worked in over 50 countries.

The grannies do not have to be actual grandmothers, but they do have to have an interest in caring for young people, travelling and meeting new people. In addition to childcare, granny au pairs are also placed as companions to elderly people.

There is no age limit, but they have to say if they feel physically and mentally capable of doing a placement on their form and if they mention medical issues on their profile, these are followed up.

The agency also offers voluntary work on social projects abroad, for example, Grannies could work in a school in Cambodia teaching English or in a nursery in Namibia. For social projects, Granny au pairs will have to pay for flights and mostly for accommodation whereas for au pairs working with children families tend to pay for at least part of the travel costs and bed and board is provided, plus some spending money. Travel and health insurance is recommended.

The Hamburg-based agency markets through social media and other networks, such as international schools. You can sign up as a granny from all over the world. Very few are currently from the UK, although granny au pairs were, until Brexit, very popular with British families. Popular destinations include the US and Italy.

Choosing a granny au pair

There are around 100 grannies on the agency’s books at any one time. The grannies pay a membership fee to post their detailed profiles online and families pay the same to access profiles – the fee is around 65 euros a month for a three-month membership and there are also six and 12-month memberships.

Families can then search the database for a granny and arrange Skype calls, etc, to find out whether they are a good match. The agency encourages families and au pairs to talk through expectations beforehand and offers regular workshops for potential grannies so they can talk through the issues that might arise on a placement.

It is up to the families to screen the grannies. Spokesperson Grania Groezinger says the agency has not had any major problems over the years. The main challenges have been sandwich generation issues – for instance, some grannies have had to return home to look after elderly parents – and a lack of chemistry between family and granny.

“We tell families to talk intensively about any issues that might arise to ensure that there are no misunderstandings,” says Grania. She emphasises that grannies are not cheap nannies or household helps, for instance. “They should be treated like a member of the family,” she says.

Brexit and Covid

Brexit and Covid have had a big impact. During the first months of Covid the agency focused on matching up families and au pairs in preparation for the easing of travel restrictions, which were different in every country. It was also able to organise au pairs within Germany. The US is one of its most popular destinations so when it re-opened for travel that had a big impact. Meanwhile, China has dried up as a destination due to the country’s stricter and longer-lasting restrictions.

Brexit has had an even bigger and more lasting impact despite the fact that British families are crying out for cheaper childcare options. England used to be a popular destination for nannies, but since Brexit was implemented travel between the UK and Europe has been more difficult. One of the problems is that there are no visas for au pairs despite lobbying for au pairs to be included in the Brexit agreement and support from the EU. That means grannies can only stay in the UK for up to six months on a tourist visa and cannot do paid work,  or three months with a visitor’s pass. “In the EU you can stay for as long as you want and people can just hop on a plane if a family needs them,” says Grania. Another issue that Brexit has complicated is health insurance.

The Granny AuPair agency has been pressing for a change to au pair visas, but that is likely to take time as, for the UK, it may depend on a bilateral agreement with each individual country that a nanny comes from.

Grania says that being a nanny offers older women the chance to travel and explore and she says families in other countries are keen to have English-speaking au pairs. She adds that many parents in Europe send their children to international school and that increasing numbers of children are bilingual so language should not be a barrier.

Grania adds that granny au pairs tend to be, by dint of their life experience, more responsible, more independent and more able to handle any situation that arises. In addition to teaching the families they stay with their language, grannies also pass on some of their culture and customs, for instance, many like baking food from their country with the children.

“It’s very much a relationship business which is good for both the grannies and the families. Lots of the grannies have yet to have their own grandchildren and it helps to prepare them,” says Grania. “A lot of the families don’t have grandparents and the au pairs give their children contact with an older person.”

The idea, which was first coined by the founder of Granny AuPairs, Michaela Hansen, has spread. Before Covid there were other granny au pair agencies in Europe, but many of these have not survived. However, some of the bigger au pair sites are now offering granny au pairs. “It’s an idea that has caught on,” says Grania.

Read also:

Finding apprenticeships over 50

Not retiring: the role of grandparents

Want more advice? You are invited to our online Career Fair >>

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