The Granny Au Pair agency has been going for nearly 10 years and the UK is one of its most popular destinations.
Are you a family looking for an alternative form of childcare or are you over 50 and keen to travel and meet new people? If either applies to you, 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 is soon celebrating its 10th anniversary. In that time it has had several thousand ‘grannies’ on its books who have worked in over 50 countries, mainly English-speaking ones.
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 also do housesitting.
There is no age limit, but they have 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.
In the last few years, the agency has broadened its remit to include voluntary work on social projects abroad, for instance, an animal welfare project in France; and a language club which helps grannies to find a language course abroad so they can test the waters and build their confidence.
It has also extended its reach. China is proving popular and it has placed au pairs on islands like Martinique in the Caribbean.
The Hamburg-based agency markets through social media and other networks, such as international schools. Most of the grannies are from Austria, Germany and Switzerland, but it has also had women signing up from as far afield as New Zealand. Very few are from the UK, although granny au pairs are very popular with British families.
There are around 90 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 60 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 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.
Asked about the potential impact of Brexit on the business, Grania says there has been no fall in the numbers of au pairs heading for the UK yet. Moreover, the agency is used to placing people outside the EU.
One of the problems they have, though, is that there is an age limit on au pair visas. That means grannies can only stay for between three to six months. “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.
It may take longer to organise things with Brexit,” says Grania. Another issue is health insurance. “Many people haven’t perhaps realised the full impact of Brexit when it comes to travelling,” she adds.
The agency has had a lot of feedback over the years and some grannies have been placed with over 10 different families or have returned to the same place several times over.
Some have so enjoyed their placement that they have extended it. 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.
This year the agency is refreshing its website to make it more user friendly and introducing more community elements so grannies can share tips and link up. It is also increasing its use of social media, including instagram. For the 10th anniversary there will be a big reunion.
Grania says that long-lasting relationships are formed between families and grannies with families coming to visit grannies once they return home. One Mexican family did a tour of 10 grannies.
“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.”