Good news: Grandparents who spend quality time with their grandchildren stand to gain a wide range of physical, mental and emotional health benefits. But don’t overdo it, researchers say.
4 Unexpected Health Benefits of Being a Grandparent
1. Being a grandparent plays a big role in brain health.
One of the benefits of being a grandparent is enjoying your grandkids, then send them packing. Turns out, being an involved grandparent — rather than a full-time caregiver — is what’s best for your cognitive health.
An Australian study found that grandmothers who spent one day per week caring for their grandchildren displayed the highest cognitive performance of participants studied. But the cognitive benefits seemed to stop there. Caring for grandchildren for five or more days per week was tied to lower cognitive performance, including a lower working memory and processing speed.
In a separate study researchers examined the well-being among grandparents raising grandchildren during middle to late life. The results indicated that grandparents raising a grandchild experienced lower levels of well-being compared to grandparents who were not raising a grandchild regardless of their level of the involvement in their lives.
Related: Babysitting Grandkids: Do I Have to?
2. Being a grandparent keeps you social.
Having grandchildren by your side can boost your social life and fight the feeling of loneliness later in life, new research suggests. Maturitas, an international journal of midlife health and beyond, reports that: “One key example of social engagement in later life is the role of a grandparent. This role promotes a socially active lifestyle that may be beneficial to cognitive ageing. Recent research has found that spending some time with grandchildren is beneficial.” But setting boundaries and clear expectations is equally important.
3. Involved grandparents keep physically active.
Slowing down in retirement or later in life might be just about the worst thing you can do for your physical and mental health. As reported by Lifetime Daily writer Jordan Rosenfeld, “slowing down can lead to gradual functional decline, so gradual you might not even notice. Activities you take for granted, from walking up a flight of stairs or picking something up off the floor, will become more difficult if you don’t keep active.” Rosenfeld found that almost any form of daily exercise, including running around with your grandkids, keeps your mind and body as sharp as it was before retirement.
4. Having an involved grandparent is good for kids too.
No surprise, the health benefits go both ways. One study found that in families where grandparents regularly spent time with teenage grandchildren, the teens had lower rates of depression than teens who didn’t see their grandparents often. Researchers cited other non-health benefits among teens who saw their grandparents frequently, including higher academic success, greater self-confidence and higher rates of competence and maturity.
The conclusion: Spoil them and then send them on their way. You now have the studies to prove it.