Having grandchildren can make life worth living. But did you know it can make life last longer?
Grandparents who babysit regularly for their grandkids are not just helping their families - they’re adding years to their own lives. That’s the takeaway from a study that tracked 500 adults over 20 years to determine the impact of caring activity on life expectancy.
Analysing data from the Berlin Ageing Study, researchers found caregiver grandparents had a mortality rate 37% lower than other grandparents and non-grandparents alike. And half of the carer-grandparents lived about five years longer than the other groups.
This was true regardless of physical health, age or socioeconomic status.
Scientists had already established that caregiving enhanced the brain power of grandparents while reducing their risk of depression - as long as the care was “non-custodial” (i.e., where grandparents were not the main caregivers). But this was the first research to establish a link - and a strong one - to life expectancy.
One of the study authors, Dr. Sonja Hildbrand, explained that caregiving “is a very deeply rooted human behaviour that has helped our species to survive.”Now more than ever
In today’s hyperconnected, always-online world, such “pro-social behaviour is more important than ever,” she added.
The stereotype of the technologically clueless grandparent is increasingly just that: a stereotype.
With parents increasingly apt to resort to screen-based entertainment to occupy children - and adults of all ages connecting through their phones and tablets rather than face-to-face - the benefits of active grandparenting are at risk as never before, warns Kelly Newcom of braveparenting.net.
Recent statistics show 17% of Baby Boomers admit they are online “almost constantly” - and a big majority now say having high-speed internet access at home is a high priority.
Eighty-two percent of Baby Boomers have at least one social media account, and overall this generation averages 27 hours online per week.
Clearly, the days when Nanna and Pop struggled to open an email attachment are well and truly over - and that’s a good thing. Being able to relate to their grandkids’ online world is another potential plus in forming close, caring relationships.
But role modelling is as important to good digital grandparenting as it is to effective digital parenting. Being present and responsive to children - and an attentive and active listener - is what grandparents have always done best. Now we know their lives - or at least their longevity - may depend on it.
Parental controls aren’t just for parents. Grandparents who look after grandkids in their own homes need them too - to manage screen-time, block adult content and control access to social media and games. Learn more at familyzone.com - and start your free trial today!
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