As a parent of two preschoolers, my day usually ends with me melted into the couch.
The crazy thing is that I’m still relatively young and work at a sit-down job. There’s just something about constantly chasing, correcting, and taking care of preschoolers even for those few short hours when I’m at home that makes me bone-tired.
So anytime my parents or in-laws offer to watch our little ones, I get really happy. That is why I’m so excited about a study – even if it’s a relatively small one – which suggests that grandparents who babysit are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
But, as with most studies, the takeaway isn’t as simple as that. The study included 186 Australian women between the ages of 57 and 68, 120 of which were grandparents. The women in the study were given several cognitive tests. Those who watched their grandchildren for one day a week scored higher on the cognitive tests than those who did not.
Those who watched their grandchildren for five days a week, however, scored lower on the tests. The researchers suggested that those grandmothers who watched their grandchildren for five days a week may have performed more poorly due to feeling overextended from their efforts.
Social interactions protect the brain against aging
This isn’t the first study to suggest that personal interactions have positive cognitive effects on the minds of the aging. A study of 2,249 women aged 78 or older found that those with larger social networks were 26 percent less likely to develop dementia than those with smaller social networks.
In another study, 823 dementia-free men and women aged 80 or older were tested on the loneliness scale. Those who scored highest on the loneliness scale were more than twice as likely to develop dementia as those with more social connections.
All of this evidence seems to suggest that the more personal connections and interactions we have as we age, the better our brains seem to fight off the cognitive effects of aging, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Time to take a few minutes and thank your parents for babysitting your kids. Not only is it giving you some much needed time off, but it’s also providing some major benefits to them!
Here are a few other gains your parents can expect when they watch your kids:
They are less likely to be depressed
According to a study including 374 grandparents and 356 adult grandchildren, the stronger the relationship between the grandparent and grandchild, the less likely it was for either to experience depressive symptoms.
They can spoil their grandkids (and it’s okay)
My grandmother used to take me and my siblings to the dollar store when she watched us overnight. I used to love picking out whatever I wanted – a G.I. Joe or some super sugared up treat. She’d let us rent movies, eat ice cream, and stay up late. It was the best.
Parents have a harder time spoiling our kids without setting some sort of precedent (in their minds) that we then have to fight against later. I love that my parents and my in-laws can spoil my kids.
They can be an extra source of love
Our kids need all the love they can get, and the special kind of love that grandparents exude is special. They love unconditionally and without needing to focus on the hard disciplining that we have to do.
They provide wisdom and new perspectives
My grandmother told me how she grew up on a farm and lived in a single-room house with seven other children. As you can imagine, they were dirt poor. Having this conversation with my grandmother opened my eyes.
It gives me a better grasp and appreciation of my own life circumstances. The next time our internet is out, I have enough perspective not to freak out. I want the same for my kids.
They increase the well-being of our children
A study of 1,500 children showed that those whose grandparents were highly involved had fewer emotional and behavioral problems.
To all the grandparents reading this, thank you for what you do. You make a bigger impact on all of us – including yourself – by loving on our kids.