52 % of grandparents live less than 5 km away from their grandchildren

52 % of grandparents live less than 5 km away from their grandchildren

Belgians are known to be attached to their homes, and that also seems to be the case across the generations. Almost 22 % of grandparents (21.79 %), who have at least 1 grandchild aged 15 or younger, are living less than 1 km away. 4.5 % even live with their grandchildren. Conversely, 28 % of grandchildren live less than 1 km away from their grandparents and in total, more than three grandchildren out of four (78 %) live no more than 10 km away from their grandparents, according to the new figures of Statbel, the Belgian statistical office.

In the current coronavirus crisis, parents are asked to stop visiting grandparents and to stop relying on them for childcare. Even if the actual distance between grandparents and grandchildren is quite small in practice.

Half of the grandparents live less than 5 km away from their grandchildren

Almost 52 % of the grandparents, i.e. more than 925,000 persons in absolute numbers, have at least one grandchild who lives less than 5 km away. In addition, for just over 308,000 grandparents, the distance is between 5 and 10 km.

In the context of the current crisis, the more than 4,000 grandparents over 80 (4,176) and the 28,663 grandparents aged 65 to 80 who live in the household of their (grand)children are a group that requires a special attention. It is in fact impossible for them to isolate themselves from the grandchildren.

Conversely, there are also almost 109,000 grandparents who do not have a single grandchild within 50 km. This is the case for just over 9,000 persons aged 80 or over.

Number of grandparents per distance from their grandchildren

distance total younger than 65 between 65 and 80 80+
co-resident 80,242 47,403 28,663 4,176
less than 1 km 308,373 146,773 145,261 16,339
between 1 and 5 km 536,440 271,210 238,761 26,469
between 5 and 10 km 308,310 158,169 134,316 15,825
between 10 and 25 km 303,205 151,091 134,244 17,870
between 25 and 50 km 138,323 64,844 63,665 9,814
more than 50 km 108,959 46,785 53,133 9,041
total 1,783,852 886,275 798,043 99,534

Three grandchildren out of four has a grandparent living less than 10 km away

If we calculate the results from the perspective of the grandchildren (aged 15 or younger), we can see that for just under 79 % of the children (78.55 %), with at least one grandparent living in Belgium, the nearest grandparent does not live further away than 10 km.

Number of grandchildren per distance from their grandparents

distance total percentage
co-resident 90,765 6%
less than 1 km 350,766 23%
between 1 and 5 km 532,619 34%
between 5 and 10 km 243,757 16%
between 10 and 25 km 195,793 13%
between 25 and 50 km 81,091 5%
more than 50 km 55,748 4%
total 1,550,539 100%

For 63 % (62.83), at least one grandparent lives within cycling distance (between 1 and 5 km) and for 28.5 %, the grandparent either lives around the corner (less than 1 km) or within the household (5.85 %).

19.79 % of the children (382,563 children in absolute numbers) either no longer have a grandparent or no grandfather or grandmother living in Belgium. These children are not included in the table above, and are not taken into account in the percentages.


Statbel has analysed, based on Demobel - its demographic database based on the National Register - how far away grandparents live from their grandchildren. These figures have never before been produced for Belgium.

The figures refer to the population on 1st January 2019. We have limited the analysis to (grand)children younger than 15, in order to highlight the childcare aspect. There are a number of important nuances:

  • These figures are calculated based on the number of grandchildren and grandparents domiciled in Belgium.
  • Grandparents and grandchildren were identified based on their kinship as registered in the National Register. Therefore, we did not take into account contacts between children and elderly who are not related in a straight line (step-grandparents, great-nephews, great-nieces, etc.)
  • Distance in itself is obviously not the only determining factor for the degree of contact between grandchildren and grandparents, but it logically plays a role. In a 2016 study by the Gezinsbond1, 65 % of the respondents indicated that the reason why they saw some grandchildren more than others was simply because they lived closer.


This experimental Statbel analysis brings together two recent developments with the National Register2 as source:

  1. kinship statistics: based on information from the National Register, Statbel has identified the father and the mother of each person (as far as they are registered). This development has its importance, o.a., in the development of a new household typology and origin statistics
  2. Statbel has geolocated the addresses registered in the National Register (a.o. based on open addresses files). This way, the distance between the place of residence of (grand)children and grandparents could be calculated.

Both developments were integrated into DEMOBEL. DEMOBEL is a set of micro data files containing a wealth of demographic information on population, births, deaths, migrations, households, divorces and marriages over a period of almost 30 years (from 1992).


1Rapport onderzoek gezinsbond

2National Register