In the realm of childcare, the invaluable role of grandparents as babysitters cannot be understated. Beyond offering parental assistance, they bring a wealth of experience, love, and a unique bond that extends far beyond simple caretaking.
As we grow older, we get more exposed to a variety of health issues (both mental and physical concerns), and one of the most common mental health issues that come with old age is dementia.
Dementia involves a set of symptoms that is related to memory loss or deterioration of some mental skills.
Dementia often affects the basic skills used to be able to perform daily tasks such as driving, using utensils, and even the simple act of buttoning and unbuttoning of clothing.
This dreaded disease can eventually take away one’s ability to take care of self. It is a huge blow not just for the person who gets diagnosed with it, but also painful for the entire family who have to see their loved-one slowly ‘fade away’.
The good news is, research has found out that taking care of young children could potentially prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease for grandparents.
In the research conducted by the Women’s Healthy Aging Project in Australia and published in the journal of the North American Menopause Society, it was revealed that grandmothers who babysit once a week have better cognitive skills than those who don’t.
The test entailed giving three cognitive tests to 186 women who are within the pre-menopausal stage of life. Some of the women, 120 of them to be exact, are grandmothers. Some of these grandmothers who babysit their grandkids have performed better in the cognitive skills test.
As a result, the researches believed that spending time with or taking care of grandchildren have a positive impact on the skills. It might also be key in lowering the risks of having Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
However, just like with everything else, too much babysitting is not good. The research also discovered that grandmothers who babysit for five or more days in a week had low scores, too.
Actually, this is not the first research done that shows the positive effects of a close relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.
Earlier research from Institute on Aging at Boston College has studied 376 grandparents as well as 340 children. They were observed for 19 years and the results showed that the closer the relationship a grandparent and a grandchild have, the lower the possibility of the grandparent developing depression. Having a decent amount of social interaction is beneficial for seniors to help keep the brain healthy.
Aside from the benefits of the strong bond and mental health of grandparents as babysitters, there are also some physical benefits, according to other studies.
The Berlin Aging Study, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, has observed more than 500 people above 70 years old. It found out that grandparents who take care of their grandkids have a lower mortality rate than those who don’t babysit their grandchildren.
Scientists postulate that this is probably because the physical effort of taking care of the toddlers and helping with their homework help keeps our seniors busy and active which are some of the keys to living a longer life.
Excessive involvement of grandparents as babysitters, however, can have a detrimental impact on their own health and well-being.
“You want to make sure that you find that right balance between getting the positive benefits of doing enough of an activity to help those in need and avoiding doing too much and getting to the point where the activity makes one overly stressed,” one of the social scientists said.
But since this study did not test grandparents who babysit their grandchildren full time, it would still be safer to limit the babysitting tasks.
In conclusion, as long as taking care of grandchildren doesn’t happen too often to the point of it being stressful, it could actually be beneficial to the mental and physical wellness of the grandparents.
A stronger family relationship is always a good thing; science adding more reasons for us to be closer to our family members is just a bonus.