Becoming a grandparent is an exciting and joyful experience. But did you know that there are actually health benefits to grandparenthood?
The older we get the more we look for opportunities to improve our wellbeing. The surprising thing about this article explains that by spending time with your grandkids, you could be improving your wellbeing.
There is not a ton of information out there about these benefits, but what we do know could make a difference in how you see grandparenthood.
Most people over the age of 50 have transitioned from parenting to grandparenting. Grandparents are often relied on as babysitters or full-time caregivers in the absence of a parent. Their presence in a child’s life is both important and comforting.
Becoming a parent can be somewhat stressful, especially if you are unprepared or it is your first time. However, as a grandparent, you are slightly removed from the stress and therefore receive the benefits of love, joy, and fun.
First of all, what is wellbeing?
Well-being is defined as the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. It’s dependent on your quality of life and is closely linked to your physical health. Your wellbeing is referred to what is ultimately good for you as an individual. Not everyone has the same desires, needs, and self-interests.
However, there are certain things we all have in common that we need for positive wellbeing. For example, we need human connection (love), water, nutrients, shelter, etc.
There are 5 areas of wellbeing that also help shape the basics of holistic health. These are: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual. It may sound like a daunting task to try and improve all of these areas at once. But it’s not as hard as you might think.
All of these areas piggyback off each other. If you find yourself being socially isolated, it could have a negative impact on your emotional health. Vice versa, if you’re surrounded by loved ones, your emotional health may flourish.
How can grandparenthood benefit wellbeing?
According to a 2017 study, having grandchildren is associated with emotional benefits given the direct influence of grandparenting on genetic fitness. In other words, it is exciting for grandparents to imagine their grandchildren, think about how they want to influence and pass on knowledge, and protect and nurture them.
As older adults transition into grandparenthood, they might also increase wellbeing by allowing themselves the chance to give their grandchildren what they may have not been able to provide for their children.
For example, if they didn’t feel like they gave their own children an adequate childhood, they may feel the intention to over-provide for their grandchildren albeit emotionally or financially. This can make them feel better about the past.
Stress + Wellbeing
Although there is not enough evidence to form a clear answer, there are studies about the risk of depression as we age. This particular study suggests that feelings of depression in older adults can mostly be attributed to the decline in health and mobility.
Spending time with loved ones can significantly lift your mood, and furthermore, it may help your cognition. Think of social interaction as cognitive maintenance as you age. The more engaged you are with others, especially those much younger than you, the more likely your brain will benefit.
One study found that grandmothers caring for grandchildren had higher executive function than those without grandchildren. That being said, if the demands of caring for the grandchildren become too hefty, it can cause a negative effect on aging cognition.
Grandparents may benefit from spending time with grandchildren one day a week. Being someone's constant emotional support can become too stressful. However, taking care of kids at a steady pace (not too infrequently either) helps build a close relationship and creates less room for mental health concerns.
Ideas for spending time
Parents who keep busy schedules may find it hard to spend that quality time with their kids and parents together. More so, adult grandchildren can be harder to spend time with as their own schedules get busier.
If you learn to enjoy an activity together, it can benefit all parties involved. Here's a list of activities you may find worth trying:
-do a puzzle
-go for a walk
-tell stories of the past
-draw a family tree
-share old photos
-bake cookies or cakes
-listen to music
-cook breakfast or dinner
If you can find a way to incorporate being active together, that will benefit your physical and mental health simultaneously. Going for a walk with a loved one is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.
Wellbeing + Your Immune System
We all strive for a healthy immune system, but can positive well-being affect your immune system health? The short answer is yes.
Well-being is so closely woven into your physical health that it actually can boost your immunity and keep you healthy longer. When your stress levels spike due to any number of things, your well-being decreases. Stress is a long time factor in the decline of immunity.
Research shows that psychological stress has been linked to the dysregulation of the immune system. In other words, stress has a tendency to decrease the body's ability to produce white blood cells which are the cells that fight off infection.
Bringing it all back full circle, if you are a grandparent and you spend a significant time with your grandchildren, you are likely to have better wellbeing and lower stress which will therefore reduce your chance of low immunity.
Summary: Grandparents and Grandchildren
To summarize, there are many ways that transitioning into grandparenthood may help you live longer. This is due to a decrease in stress, longer cognitive ability, stronger immunity, and a boost in overall wellness.
The bonding between grandparents and grandchildren is essential for a well-balanced life. So pick an activity previously listed and find the time to bond!