Parents treasure and love spending time with their grandkids. It often brings them back to the time when you were a child, and to fond memories they created with you. However, did you know that spending time with grandchildren might also benefit your parents’ health?
A study conducted by the Women’s Health Aging Project in Australia found that post-menopausal women who spend time taking care of grandkids lower their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders. The study, published in the October 2014 edition of Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society, assessed the cognition of 186 women. Based on a series of tests, the study reported that the highest cognitive scores were seen in participants who looked after their grandchildren for one day per week.
In turn, grandchildren can help their grandparents in a number of other remarkable ways. We’ve put together our own list of how grandkids may help to improve the lives of their grandparents – and vice versa:
- Sharing passions: Grandchildren can be a perfect and eager-to-learn audience, happy to draw life lessons from their grandparents’ passions and interests. Does your mom love to paint or draw? Does your dad have a talent for woodworking or cooking? Encourage your parents to introduce such gifts to your children. You may find that your parents, too, are inquisitive and interested to learn or try new things themselves. The teaching and sharing of a special hobby, passion or knowledge can help to keep your parents energetic and engaged, and their minds sharp. By sharing their passions, your parents are in essence doing brain “workouts” and are therefore more likely to stay mentally acute and high functioning.
- Nurturing a sense of purpose: The lack of required structure during retirement may be a hard adjustment for some people and they may feel a lack of purpose or focus. Grandchildren can help renew your dad or mom’s sense of purpose as part of the process of a mentoring, educating, supporting and caring for the grandchild. Spending time interacting with grandchildren can provide personal fulfillment and alleviate boredom and loneliness, making your parents happier and more satisfied in their daily lives. Allowing your parents to spend time with your kids each week, whether to take a trip to a museum or to play a game of checkers or chess at grandma’s home, can make them feel valued and important.
- Creating generational continuity and identity: Ask your parents to share their knowledge and wisdom with your children, to help your children learn more about their heritage and family traditions. Sharing this, as well as sharing passions, can be very rewarding. Dr. Douglas A. Kramer, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, and a member of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), points out that the relationship between grandparent and grandchild creates continuity over time and across generations. This can be extremely uplifting and comforting to both of your parents, bringing an even greater sense of purpose to their daily lives.
- Enjoying a new vantage point: Perhaps nothing is more likely to make a grandparent feel young at heart than experiencing a child’s views and ideas. A grandparent is bound to marvel afresh at the wonder of a grandchild’s world and thoughts. So encourage your parents and children to take some time to explore today’s world with each other – and be prepared to feel renewed and revitalized, too.
Being a grandparent is one of life’s most meaningful and potentially healthful roles. Take some time to plan outings, discussions and activities that could help to bring your entire family ever closer together.