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Bjelde and Sanders publish 'snowbird' article

Kris Bjelde, assistant professor in child development family science, and Greg Sanders, associate dean in the College of Human Development and Education, have written an article titled “Snowbird Intergenerational Family Relationships.” The article was part of the research conducted for Bjelde’s doctoral dissertation in the gerontology program at NDSU. Sanders was her major adviser. The article was accepted for publication in the journal Activities, Adaptation and Aging.

This qualitative study examined the intergenerational family relationships of snowbirds. Interviews were conducted with 25 older adults (age 60+) from North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. The destination states for the winter months included Arizona, Texas and Florida. According to Bjelde, snowbirds did not perceive their winter experience to have a negative impact on their families in any significant way. “The vast majority of snowbirds expressed satisfaction with how well they maintained their intergenerational ties and holiday traditions with family while they were away. Grandchildren were very significant in the lives of snowbirds and family change (widowhood, divorce) affected, but did not end, seasonal migration,” Bjelde said. “A surprise finding was that seasonal migration enhanced the opportunity for nearly a fourth of the participants to spend time with children and grandchildren living near their Sunbelt residence. Nearly all of the participants confirmed that they preferred to be back in their home state where they had family, when and if, their health deteriorated.”

Bjelde and Sanders concluded that as this trend in seasonal migration grows with the first wave of active and well-traveled baby boomers retiring, more research needs to focus on what the unique needs and issues are with this population of mobile older adults and how professionals (aging service providers, health care professionals and activity directors) who interact and serve this population can encourage and support strong family connections and assist them in maintaining an active, healthy and fulfilling lifestyle in the 21st century.

For more information, contact Bjelde at 1-8488 or kristine.bjelde@ndsu.edu.


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