For most grandparents, looking after their grandchildren is done for the pure joy – but it also seems it may help nan and pop live longer!
Most parents are grappling with the increasing cost of childcare, so asking their own parents to look after the grandchildren is becoming more and more common. And if you needed an extra nudge to convince your parents that looking after the grandkids is beneficial, this might be it!
The Berlin Aging Study, which looked at the mental and physical health of more than 500 people aged between 70 and 103 years old, compared grandparents who provided occasional childcare with those who didn’t, as well as older adults who didn’t have kids or grandchildren, but who provided care for others in their social network.
What they discovered at the end of the 20 year study was that half of the grandparents who took care of their grandchildren were still alive 10 years after the first interview in 1990. It was the same for those who didn’t have grandchildren, but who supported their children with things like housework. And here’s the clincher – about half of those who didn’t care for their grandchildren or others died within five years.
“But helping shouldn’t be misunderstood as a panacea for a longer life,” explained Ralph Hertwig, Director of the Center for Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. “A moderate level of caregiving involvement does seem to have positive effects on health. But previous studies have shown that more intense involvement causes stress, which has negative effects on physical and mental health,” says Hertwig.
Ronan Factora, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, which didn’t take part in the study, said there are a few reasons why their are health benefits for seniors who are caregivers.
“We know that as you age, you want to stay physically active; you want to stay socially engaged; you want to be cognitively stimulated; and all those things allow you to age well,” said Dr. Factora.
“There is a link between providing this care and reducing stress and we know the relationship between stress and higher risk of dying,” said Dr. Factora. “If providing care to grandchildren and others in need is one way that can actually reduce stress, then these activities should be of benefit to folks who are grandparents and provide this care to their grandkids.”
Do you look after your grandkids? Or do you parents look after your kids? Do you see the benefits? Let us know in the comments below.We may get commissions for purchases made using links in this post. Learn more.