Looking after grandchildren does not make grandparents feel younger, study finds
Planning on dropping the kids off with granny and granddad next week for midterm and feeling safe in the knowledge that getting to spend time with the grandkids is all sorts of good for them?
Well, you might have to think again – seeing as some new research claims to disprove previous findings of a “rejuvenating effect” from looking after grandchildren.
We have all heard about the studies telling us about the mental and physical health advantages for grandparents who care for their grandchildren. However, there is one hiccup – none of these studies apparently involved researchers talking to the same grandparents before and after their caregiving responsibilities began.
And interestingly, when the authors of Is There a Rejuvenating Effect of (Grand)Childcare? A Longitudinal Study did just that, they found that caring for grandchildren failed to make grandparents feel any younger than their actual age.
“This research adds important insight to a question that hasn’t previously been interrogated by going back to the same people,” says Professor Cecilia Tomassini, a leading member of the Grandparenting in Europe network of researchers.
“Even studies that have gone back to the same group have tended to lose sight of grandparents in ill health because they’ve dropped out of the research. This means those papers have ended up by only looking at healthy grandparents, which is why they’ve been getting, until now, largely positive responses.”
Grandparents who feel younger do more childcare
In short, what the new study seemed to prove, is that rather than childcare making grandparents feel young, it’s the grandparents who feel young already who do more childcare.
However, what the researchers did find, which they deemed rather interesting, was that there are slight benefits in older adults looking after young children who are not their own kin.
The hypothesis, said Bordone, is that unrelated children bring with them the rejuvenating effect of youth – without the same reminder of old age that grandchildren do.
“Grandparenthood is a powerful reminder of a person’s ageing and as such, it is likely to affect subjective age,” Bordone explains.