The relationship between a child and a grandparent is a safe and warm place to land when the stresses of life are overwhelming. In such a beloved, care-free environment, the child is completely calm feeling happy, protected, and accepted.
Children actually need what their grandparents offer in abundance- unconditional love, respect, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, and lessons in life.
From a psychological point of view, grandparents are very important for the harmonious growth and development of children. Children who are very close to their grandparents will learn things about their family, life decades ago, hear a lot of funny stories about the childhood of their parents, and in this way, they will develop their sense of belonging to the family.
Moreover, grandparents give unconditional love that makes children feel safe and confident.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reported that grandparents are increasingly providing the stability and security of home for their families. Additionally, the 2010 U.S. Census revealed a 7% increase in the past decade of children living in the home of their grandparents.
Grandparents are always adored, but watching the effects of aging on them can be very sad and disappointing.
However, scientists have found that they can actually easily extend their lifespans- by simply being grandparents!
The study entitled “Caregiving within and beyond the family is associated with lower mortality for the caregiver: A prospective study” was published in the Evolution and Human Behavior in 2016.
Its lead author was Sonja Hilbrand from the University of Basel and Max Planck Institute for Human Development, and she worked with David A. Coall (Edith Cowan University and University of Western Australia), Ralph Hertwig ( Max Planck Institute for Human Development), and Denis Gerstorf (Humboldt University).
The goal of the study was to determine the relationship between life expectancy and caregiving duties provided by grandparents. Researchers focused solely on mortality in relation to grandparents and their family relationships.
Researchers selected participants within the BASE (Berlin Aging Study data) system randomly. The study included 512 participants, all aged 70 or older. Eighty of the grandparents participated in caregiving activities, 232 did not take on caregiver duties, and 204 were not grandparents.
They attended medical examinations and interviews, in either their own homes or in hospitals or other practice locations. They provided details regarding their activities in the past year, while they spent their time with their grandchild without its parents being present.
The study was conducted over the long span of 20 years and was completed in 2016.
Researchers found that there is a link between caregiving activities and mortality rates. Namely, grandparents who take part in caregiving activities had a 37% lower mortality risk than grandparents who do not and those who are not grandparents. Also, grandparents who do not take part in caregiving activities have the same mortality risk as those who are not grandparents.
Yet, participants who are not grandparents had a 57% lower mortality risk when they provide assistance to their children (as adults). This means that people who support others in life have a higher chance of better life longevity.
However, we should mention that this is a small-size study, and researchers did not mention the cause of death of participants. Also, grandparents were interviewed on a bi-annual basis, so they could forget many details, and the study was observational.
It is believed that people who support others live longer due to several reasons:
- They remain physically active as they spend time outdoors with the children
- While looking after their grandchildren, grandparents joint them in certain activities that boost the function of the brain and learn
- Taking care of their grandchildren gives them a sense of purpose, and they tend to take care of their health and enjoy life to the fullest
- Time spent with the children improves positive thinking, and grandparents have a lower risk of developing depression
- Social interaction boosts their memory, prevents mental decline, and keeps their mind sharp
Therefore, find time to drop by for a meal or to hang out with your grandparents, and you will contribute to their better health. Our grandparents can teach us valuable wisdom and skills, speak about their experiences and knowledge about human relationships, so they can help us a lot with their lifetime of experience and insight.
On the other hand, if you are a senior citizen but have no grandchildren, join a club to socialize with other people, get involved in the community, and meet new people.