In China, Confucian authoritative familism has long established the tradition of paternal grandparents caring for grandchildren. With urbanisation in progress, many older people choose to settle in cities with their children, mainly to look after their grandchildren, and are known as ‘migrant grandparents’. Through a study of this group in Shanghai, the article reveals four other roles of migrant grandparents in addition to the role of caregivers: namely, workers, leisure seekers, in-laws (qingjia) and spouses. The prioritisation of grandparents’ roles demonstrates their increasing subjectivity in self-determination, transformative social values and personal life expectations. This article argues that Chinese older adults have begun to individualise and that these practices have contributed both to the destruction of the collective single-core family model in traditional and neo-familism and the emergence of independent, dual-core familism between two generations.