Spending time with your grandchildren is stimulating, energizing and fun. In some ways, this precious time might feel restorative, almost like a medication. Well in fact, according to a recent Health Day article, spending just a little time taking care of your grandkids each week could have medicinal properties.
In a study of Australian women in their late 50s, those who spent 1 or 2 days a week babysitting their grandchildren fared better in tests of memory and mental processing speed than did their non-babysitting counterparts. The findings of the study, published in the journal Menopause this past April, suggest that the mental exercise required to interact with young children can help to keep your brain spry. Children are constantly questioning, challenging and surprising, all the things your mind needs to feel vital.
Socializing On the Junior Circuit
The time spent caring for your grandchildren may also have mood-elevating qualities. A study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) points out that keeping an active social life is an important part of aging happily. However, researchers note, the recent Menopause article is the first of its kind, distilling the impact of socializing specifically with grandchildren. Because grandchildren are such an important part of everyday life for many seniors, it is valuable and more than a little bit gratifying to know that this part of life has inherently healthful properties.
Of course, you won’t always have what it takes to keep up with your grandchildren. You might not be the top candidate, for instance, to take them skateboarding for the first time. That’s why, the study reveals, you have to know your limits.
Don’t Overdo It
Sometimes it’s impossible to keep up with your grandchildren. After all, they are just kids. On certain days, their bound to have so much energy that it exhausts you just to watch them.
This may account at least partially for one of the more surprising findings of the study. Namely, women who looked after a grandchild five days a week or more demonstrated the exact opposite effect on their mental acuity. Sharpness, memory and processing speed all suffered from the overload of parenting responsibilities. Researchers concede that some degree of resentment or otherwise negative feelings may have also played into the lesser performance of these overburdened grandparents.
These findings suggest that if you want to make the most of your time with your grandchildren, for your sake and theirs, don’t take on more than you can handle. Volunteer all the love and affection in your heart, but keep some of your time for yourself.
Researchers note that they could not establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between time spent with grandchildren and mental performance of seniors. However, they were able to establish a connection between the two.
We’re sure we don’t need to tell you to err on the side of caution. That is, spend a few hours of quality time with your grandchildren every week and make the very most of it! This may be some of the most enjoyable medical advice you’ll ever receive.