The granny au pairs

Posted on November 5, 2015 by Eleanor McKenzie
Family gathered around an ipad

The traditional au pair is having something of a makeover and there is a growing demand for childcare help that is over 55 rather than under 25-years-old.

Granny Au Pair based in Hamburg has started a new trend for the adventurous 50+ woman who wants the opportunity to experience living abroad without giving up her primary home. When 52-year-old Michaela Hansen launched the agency in 2010 it was the first of its kind in the world, but others are quickly following its trend. It is worth noting that the German-based agency is always looking for British women and the company website is in English and German for your convenience.

Since it started, the agency has sent around 1,000 granny au pairs to 40 countries, which is quite an achievement. The company prides itself on providing quality au pairs and maintaining personal contact with all members, both hosts and carers. Granny au pairs are not only in demand with families with young children who value a more mature carer, people living alone who want a companion “in the old-fashioned sense,” as the website thoughtfully expresses it, are also on the agency books. The agency has also discovered that granny au pairs are in demand as trustworthy house sitters.

Plus, and this may appeal to many of you, there is the opportunity to be a helper in one of Granny Au Pair’s social projects. Former nurses, teachers, childcare workers, or if you have practical skills such as dressmaking, are required for overseas projects in developing countries. You’ll also be welcomed if you don’t feel you have relevant skills, but simply want to give a helping hand. Currently, there are two projects in India; one empowering women textile workers by helping care for their children, and the other is providing care for children while their mothers learn work skills. Projects in Kenya and Tanzania include helping socially disadvantaged children, and there are others in Bolivia and the Dominican Republic.

Or, you can stay in Europe and enjoy the charms of Hamburg, Munich and Berlin and Vienna, or opt for sunny Portugal, exotic Istanbul or even the swanky shores of Lake Lucerne. There really are lots of very attractive placements on offer, and I’m feeling quite tempted. In a 2014 interview with Granny Au Pair director Grania Groezinger in The Telegraph, the agency was actively looking for more British ‘grannies’ to fill demand, so if you feel drawn to the idea, they’ll be delighted to hear from you.

 

Woman looking after a child in a park

A stint as an au pair will give you the opportunity to learn another language, which is good for our mental health, plus you get free board and lodging in return for help with the children and the household. Typically, an au pair is not on call 24-hours a day, so there is adequate free time, plus being part of a ‘native’ family makes life in a foreign country so much easier.

Gudrun Kunze, a 62-year-old retired widow with adult children is a good example of a woman who is an ideal granny au pair. Gudrun spent six months in Madrid with a family speaking Spanish, German and English. She found it such an uplifting experience that she has continued with this new career and has been to Australia and Scotland since leaving Spain.

Another member of Granny Au Pair enjoyed her placement in San Pedro de Alcántara where I lived for many years. Birgit Oppenhaüser cared for the six-year-old daughter of a single mother. It was, she says “three beautiful, eventful months” and she had the job satisfaction of knowing that she made the mother’s life easier.

Browsing the featured granny au pairs on the agency website, I’m struck by the diversity of women who have registered as au pairs on the site. Profiles are smartly presented and the Granny Au Pair directors have taken great care to explain every aspect of what is expected for both the au pairs and the host families. It’s an inspired way of broadening your life experience in a flexible way and I’m quite excited to think that instead of being the host family, I could be the au pair if I feel like three months or so in another country.

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.