Fact: According to Science, Seniors With Grandkids Live Longer!

    Parents, give yourselves a break and let the kids spend some quality time with Grandma and Grandpa - for their health!

    If you’re a grandparent, then you know how wonderful it can be to spend time with your grandkids – but you also know how wonderful it can be to hand them back over to their parents once you’ve had enough!

    But it turns out that the joy of seeing them (and the relief of seeing them go home) may be more profound than you would expect. According to a recent scientific study, seniors who take care of their grandchildren will live much, much longer than seniors who don’t!

    Seniors, Grandkids, and Longevity: a 20 Year Study of Health and Wellness

    The study was conducted in Berlin, Germany between the years 1990 and 2009. Scientists recruited 500 senior citizens age 70 and older to participate in the study. They did a basic intake the first year, and went back in for follow-up interviews every two years thereafter. Follow-up interviews covered topics such as:

    • General health status
    • How they were feeling
    • How much time they spent with their grandkids
    • How much time they spent helping their adult children
    • How much time they spent helping people they weren’t related to
    • How often they kept to themselves

    To make a long story short: the seniors who occasionally helped take care of their grandchildren had a 33% chance of living longer than seniors who didn’t. But that’s not the whole story. For the whole story, we’re going to have to take a deeper look at what the scientists found, and what it means for older adults with grandchildren.

    The Benefits of Caring for Your Grandchildren (and Others)

    Let’s say it again for anyone in the back who didn’t hear it the first time: older adults who spend time caring for their grandchildren have a 33% chance of living longer than anyone else. But there are some caveats to this. For starters, full-time grandparents had a lower life expectancy than part-time grandparents. Too much childcare can be physically and mentally taxing, whereas just the right amount can be rejuvenating and healthful. So be sure to set ground rules so that caring for your grandchildren doesn’t start doing more harm than good!

    Another interesting thing the study discovered: they don’t have to be your grandkids in order to extend your life. Older adults who spent more time helping their adult children, friends, or relatives other than grandchildren also experienced a longevity and overall health boost. It turns out that caregiving in general – no matter who it’s for – helps improve health and lifespan for your body and brain.

    In a way, it makes sense; caregiving gives you a purpose. And if you have a reason to live longer, regardless of significance, the body wants to respond in kind. It stimulates physiological processes in the brain and the body so that you’ll be around for as long as your loved ones need you. If you’ve been needing an excuse to see your grandchildren more, well, now you have one!

    Words of Warning from the Study

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    If Spending Time With Grandkids Lengthens Your Lifespan, What Do You Think Spending Too Much Time Alone Does?

    For older adults without grandchildren, however, the study has some words of warning. The biggest and most ominously foreboding statement was this: 50% of participants who didn’t care for anyone but themselves died within the first 5 years of the study. So if you don’t have grandchildren, if you never see your grandchildren, and if you don’t bother with any caregiving activities other than those you do for yourself, then that might not be the healthiest thing for you (according to this study, of course).

    The study also warns grandparents that spending too much time caring for a grandchild – or taking on full custody of a grandchild – can have the opposite effect of part-time care. Child care is stressful no matter what, but if you’re taking on that responsibility all by yourself – especially at an advanced age – it can take an even bigger toll on you than it would your younger self. If you feel like your adult children are relying a little too heavily upon you for help with the kids, you can use this study as an excuse to say something to them about it. Tell them to call up the babysitter and give you a break or else you may not be around for their graduation! In the end, everyone will be happier and healthier for it.