Modern research on grandparenting shows that many health benefits – along with some challenges – are derived from this important family relationship.
A 2014 study from the Journal of the American Gerontological Society suggests that spending quality time with grandchildren while they are young improves overall mental health. These loving bonds lowered the risk of depression among grandparents. Additionally, according to a June 2016 study from Boston University, relational closeness between older grandchildren and their grandparents protects against depression for both.
Susan Newman, the author of Little Things Mean a Lot, describes grandparents as a security blanket for grandchildren. A major emotional plus for kids is having someone in their lives whom they trust and know is on their side. Children need to have someone around who is comforting; someone who hugs them, sits with them and reads to them. Unlike most parents, grandparents have much more patience – and often, more time to spare.
Sharing interests such as sports, baking, or flying kites brings happiness to both generations, Newman says. “If kids are having fun, you are going to feel good as a grandparent.”
Grandparents who care for their grandchildren on a weekly basis can boost some of their brain function. In 2014, The Journal of Marriage and Family found that providing child care had a positive effect on verbal fluency. Unfortunately, it did not improve scores on other cognitive tests such as short-term and long-term memory
Another study by the Journal of the North American Menopause Society, found that the highest cognitive scores among older women were achieved by those who spent one day per week babysitting their grandchildren. The study also reported, however, that a heavy schedule of babysitting was tied to reduced scores.
Before reading on, ask yourself how long you want to live. Providing at least some support in caring for grandchildren seems to lead to a longer life. A 2016 study in the journal, Evolution and Human Behavior, showed that grandparents (aged 70-103) were more likely to be alive five years later if they provided at least some occasional care for their grandchildren.
Lastly, in a long-term British survey of 21,000 men and women, participants were regularly asked how happy they were with their lives over the course of their lives. The survey, according to an article in The Daily Mail from February 23, 2010, found this: statistically, the happiest years of your life will be between 68 and 85.
Mike Shaughnessy is the founder of Grandly and the author of The Strategic Grandparent.