Kids may drain you of energy, but they may also infuse some adults with life, and according to a recent study, quite a few grandparents are reaping the benefits.
Researchers found that grandparents who look after their grandkids or act as caregivers to other individuals may live longer compared to some other older adults.
Cleveland Clinic doctors shared a couple of reasons for the “health reward” in a press statement, such as increased physical activity and cognitive stimulation from social interaction with the kids.
Grandparenting, Caregiving, and Mortality
Many studies talk about the positive effects of grandparental care on the grandparent’s health, especially for grandparents who are the primary caregivers of their grandchildren.
On the other hand, researchers know little about the grandparents who aren’t the principal caregivers.
So, a group of researchers conducted a study that looked at caregiving within and beyond the family and its association with mortality.
The study looked at parents who helped adult children and childless participants who provided support to other individuals in the social network.
The researchers were also on a mission to determine the effects of mortality among grandparents who watch after their grandkids when their parents aren’t present.
The researchers based their investigation on the activation of the neural and hormonal system during the caregiving process.
The activity promotes engagement in social behaviors and, according to theory and evidence, it can positively impact health and reduce the mortality of the caregiver.
The researchers drew data from the longitudinal Berlin Aging Study that included more than 500 participants.
The participants aged 70 and older underwent interviews and medical tests that occurred in two-year intervals between 1990 and 2009.
Ultimately, the researchers found that grandparents lowered their risk of death over 20 years for providing some care for their grandchildren and others.
Grandparenting and its Effects on Physical Activity
According to AARP’s 2018 Grandparents Today National Survey, two out of three respondents said their grandchildren are helping them to have a more active lifestyle.
Half of the survey participants shared that their relationship with their grandkids helps alleviate health conditions.
The online survey questioned more than 2,600 grandparents aged 38 and older.
Spending time with grandchildren occurs in a variety of ways, which often involve some sort of physical activity.
However, grandparents can harness the energy of their lively grandkids to rouse up their motivation to become more fit and active.
Exercise is an extra benefit for grandparents because it helps reduce stress.
The body produces endorphins, which are also known as natural painkillers or feel-good neurotransmitters. The physical activity also boosts cognition and memory.
When grandparents participate in physical activities with their grandchildren, they are not the only ones who benefit.
The children do as well. Physical activity can prevent children from becoming too sedentary or obese.
Grandparents can become their grandchildren’s role model of a healthy lifestyle by merely encouraging them to learn ways to be active and entertained without the use of electronics, such as playing tag, jumping rope, and “Simon Says.”
They can take their grandkids outdoors to enjoy and explore local nature trails during a hike, run, or bike ride; visit local pools to go for a swim, and attend fitness classes at local community centers.
Grandparenting and Improved Cognition and Social Interaction
Studies show that grandparents and grandchildren can have noticeable effects on each other’s psychological well-being.
Emotional support can improve psychological health for both generations.
Researchers shared in a 2013 study showing emotionally close grandparents and adult grandchild relationships had fewer symptoms of depression for each.
Grandparents who received tangible support, such as rides to the store, money to assist with household chores, and advice but didn’t give similar support, experienced the highest increase in depressive symptoms.
Researchers discovered the grandparents who receive help but can’t assist in return felt terrible since they expect to support their grandchildren.
The study suggested a mutual give-and-take relationship would benefit both the grandparents and grandchild’s well-being.
Grandparents who look after their grandchildren can improve their verbal fluency and short-term and long-term memory.
A 2014 study, analyzed the effect of grandparenting in cognition among postmenopausal women.
The participants who received the highest cognitive performance were the postmenopausal women who spent one day per week looking after their grandchildren.
However, if the women extended their time with their grandkids five days or more, it took a toll on their cognitive performance.
While grandparents who spend time with their grandchildren experience many benefits related to longevity, simple acts of love can boost their mental, psychological, and physical health combined.
The actions include giving and receiving a comforting hug, a kiss, and holding hands.
The emotional contact and connection that results can improve immunity, reduce pain, lower stress levels and blood pressure, and provide a sense of peace and calm.