By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Aug. 11, 2012
Greying hair, surveys have shown, can present an obstacle for seniors gettins back into the work force.
But at least one Squamish senior is using her age—a perceived weakness–as her biggest strength.
The owner of Need a Gramma, Sandra Wood has built a small business renting out her grandmotherly love and service to busy couples in Squamish.
For a minimum of two hours, at $15 an hour, Sandra, who just turned 65, can be hired to do what grandmas do: Read books to the kids, play a game, even spoil them with treats once in a while.
More than 18 families already use this grandma’s services. This summer she was more busy than ever with young couples looking for help with the little ones.
Her USP is her age and her experience, a trait no high school student working as nanny can boast of.
“There is something nurturing about having a more experienced, older person look after you,” she says.
Sandra Wood moved to Squamish last September from St. Catherines, Ontario, where she was living a retired life after working as a high school teacher for several years.
It was while visiting her son in July last year in Squamish that a family friend, Amy Denis, asked if she could look after her son for a few hours.
Sandra Wood agreed—and walked away with a business idea that has brought income and a purpose to her retired life.
“Amy said you are like Rent a grandma,” Wood recalled the moment that seeded the idea.
She was talking about Rent a Grandma, a similar service that was launched in Los Angeles in 2011 to help connect older experienced women with young couples who could use some help in housework, parenting, or simply taking a break from kids.
Rent a Grandma has already evolved into a successful franchise system in America.
CEO Todd Bliss said older women bring their extensive age and life experience to the job.
“Women in their 50s don’t text or tweet while they’re watching your kids,” Bliss said.
“There’s no replacement for experience.”
That is at the core of Wood’s business: Most of her clients are young couples who want their child to be looked after for a few hours.
Pregnant women, people working at night or other odd shifts have been her regular customers.
Besides watching over the kids, she also does household chores like laundry and dishes.
With kids, she tries to make her session informative.
“I will read stories to them, take them to the creek or park, we try to do a lot of learning,” she says.
She said the children feel a personal attachment, much more than they might feel for a younger person.
That is something Heather Kawaguchi can attest to. Kawaguchi has been calling Wood to look after her two sons, Gavin and Coleman, for about a year now.
“She is a member of our family now,” Kawaguchi said.
Kawagachi said she was looking for a more experienced person for her children.
Gavin and Coleman’s real grandparents are in Castlegar and Prince Rupert, but Sandra Wood provides the same love and support.
“They call her grandma Sandra,”