Not only is being a grandparent good for your health but spending time with the grandkids has been shown to offer numerous health benefits.
According to research results published in the scientific journal Evolution and Human Behavior, a study conducted in Germany and Switzerland says grandparenting actually helps people live longer than they would if they didn’t spend time with grandchildren. A group of 500 participants between the ages 70 and 103 were divided into three groups: grandparents with occasional grandparenting duties, those with no duties, and those who weren’t grandparents, but still performed those duties. Ten years later, half of the participants who had occasional grandparenting duties were still living. Half of the participants who had no duties lived another five years after the study, while those who were not grandparents, but performed grandparenting duties for others lived 8 more years after the study.
The research concluded that seniors who cared for children lived longer lives. Interestingly enough, these same studies also revealed that when seniors spent five days or more a week with their grandkids, it had the opposite effect. “Interaction with other people could cause stimulation of certain nerve pathways that are beneficial to our brain,” says board member of the Health and Aging Foundations at the American Geriatrics Society, Sharon Brangman, M.D. “But we also know stress can impact brain power and memory. People who are grandparenting too much may have high-stress levels and therefore are not getting that cognitive benefit.”
Just like with anything in life, moderation is key.
Other studies yielded similar results. This time, researchers focused on the ways grandparenting affected cognition. According to a study done by Australian researchers, out of 186 grandmothers, those who took care of their grandchildren one day a week performed better on memory and mental tests than those who didn’t. The results also showed that after taking care of their grandchildren once a week, these seniors were more likely to offset dementia, while lowering their risk of getting Alzheimer’s.
But with too much time spent with tiny loved ones, senior’s memory and ability to process information were lowered more quickly, adversely affecting cognition.
Other Benefits from Caring for Grandchildren:
- About 58 percent more seniors reported an increase in participation of sports, gardening, and exercise with their grandchildren, according to a 2011 AARP report. They were inclined to be more active.
- Regardless of whether they’re receiving in-home care or personalized elder care, seniors who take care of their grandchildren learn more as well. Children like to play puzzles, memory games and utilize technology – and their grandparents love to assist them. These activities and others help boost cognition, experts say.
- Frequent physical contact with grandchildren can also help strengthen immunity as a senior. Touch creates an increase in inflammatory cells and white blood cells. Holding hands can lower blood pressure, while hugs have been shown to decrease stress levels.