Everyone knows that parents sometimes need a little break from their kids–to have a much-needed date, for work purposes, or just for some family bonding time. In fact, one of the largest studies of older adults (ages 70 to 100 years old), known as The Berlin Aging Study, shows that grandparents who care for their grandchildren significantly lower their risk of passing away. What does that mean? It means a typical 70-year-old grandmother can add another 10 years to her life just by watching her grandbabies!
1. Better Cognitive Function
As the human brain ages, anything that stimulates cognitive function significantly is especially important. 120 grandmas studied by Australian researchers showed that grandmothers taking care of little ones at least one day a week had improved memory and other cognitive skills. This is because human interaction stimulates nerve pathways that improve these functions.
2. Lower Risk of Depression
Grandparents and children both receive a reduced risk of depression when they spend time together. Emotional closeness and mutual sharing create positive effects on mood.
3. Stronger Immune System
When stress is reduced, the immune system is both maintained and strengthened. And the grandparent-grandchild interaction provides for emotional intimacy, peacefulness and calm, which reduces stress (and in turn, blood pressure and pain). Says Dr. Christine Arthur of the Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in California, “When people are exposed to more touch, they often have a decrease in inflammatory cells and an increase in white blood cells, the fighter cells.”
4. Increased Physical Activity
Anyone who has watched children knows that it is a physical activity in and of itself! And getting that movement, bending, leaning, chasing, and so much more is motivating and stimulating. And physical activity breeds the desire and motivation to engage in more physical activity, a win-win situation for the elderly.
5. Strengthens Sense of Purpose
Everyone needs to feel like they have purpose in life, and that is a feeling that can decrease in a person’s twilight years. Taking care of grandchildren reduces social isolation and loneliness, giving the grandparent a sense of connection and purpose in life.
So take advantage of your parent’s wisdom, love, knowledge and nurturing, and invite them over to spend some time with the kiddos! It will benefit everyone involved.