by Ann Rickard
ACCORDING to a study published in Evolution and Human Behaviour, grandparents who help care for grandchildren may live longer than their less helpful counterparts. Researchers found that grandparents who babysit grandchildren typically live five years longer than those who do not.
The researchers looked at nearly two decades worth of data collected from more than 500 seniors between the ages of 70 and 103. They controlled for age, physical health, socio-economic status and number of offspring, yet still found the link between caring for grandkids and living longer lives.
From a personal point of view, this grandmother agrees.
I think spending even just half a day caring for the grandchildren puts a spring in your step.
Chasing after little ones as they urge you to catch a ball or splash in the pool with them uses up energy you wouldn't otherwise have called upon.
Then there is the cleaning up after they have gone home. That surely has to use up more calories than a three-kilometre walk. All that bending to pick up crayons and Lego bits, and then the kneeling down to look under the couch for miniature farm animals they've left behind...almost as good as a Pilates session.
Another on-line study says taking care of kids not only keeps seniors physically active it helps relieve stress.
I know I feel younger when I have cared for my grandchildren for a day. I laugh more, talk faster, walk speedier, smile more.
That is not to say looking after grandchildren is without challenges.
The minute they arrive it is like a tsunami has surged in. Within seconds the house has been turned sideways and upside down. The lovely floral arrangement on the dining table is instantly replaced with crayons and colouring books. Clean windows are smeared with sticky fingers, food items you have never before encountered (that have come with them) are scattered over the couch and lounge chairs.
If you can sit back and let it all cascade around you, knowing there is no hope of cleaning up behind them, it becomes something of a small fascination. How can such little people cause such big mess?
Once they have left the building, it is a question of all hands-on deck for a fast and furious clean-up and all is calm again.
Another benefit according to the study is the social interaction with grandchildren that keeps the brain healthy.
Seniors without grandchildren, need not fear, they can reap similar benefits from caring others' children. Even older, childless adults who cared for children typically added an average of three years on to their life span.
Whether you put much faith (or any at all) in studies, it doesn't hurt to think that caring for grandchildren is good for us.