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Babysitting the Grandkids Can Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows

Results from a Berlin Aging Study show that seniors who babysat lived longer.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Published September 9, 2022
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In a time when childcare costs are at an all-time high, there’s no better time to lean on family for some help. A study out of Berlin shows that what might be good for parents—free childcare from grandma or grandpa—can actually provide life-boosting benefits for grandparents too.

As a part of the Berlin Aging Study, researchers observed the lifestyles and health of 500 seniors aged 70 and older. Researchers looked at three specific groups—grandparents who occasionally helped out with their grandkids, seniors who had some caregiving responsibilities for non-family members and seniors who did not serve as caregivers for anyone else.

By the end of the 20-year study, those who helped with childcare had mortality rates 37 percent lower than grandparents who did not. These rates suggest that seniors who take on childcare duties like babysitting their grandchildren live longer.

So what about taking care of the grandkids makes grandparents healthier? Ronan Factora, MD, of Cleveland Clinic, says there may be several reasons. “We know that as you age, you want to stay physically active; you want to stay socially engaged; you want to be cognitively stimulated; and all those things allow you to age well,” Factora said in a press release adding that all these things are often touched upon when taking care of children.

Despite the occasional stressful moments when it comes to parenting Factora also says that this type of caregiving has been shown to reduce stress. “There is a link between providing this care and reducing stress and we know the relationship between stress and higher risk of dying,” said Dr. Factora. “If providing care to grandchildren and others in need is one way that can actually reduce stress, then these activities should be of benefit to folks who are grandparents and provide this care to their grandkids.”

But like anything, Factora says relying on grandparents for childcare is something best done in moderation. “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.”

If you are a grandma or grandpa yourself and want to be more involved in your grandchild’s life, check out these 10 Ways New Grandparents Can Start Off on the Right Foot.

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