The Health Benefits of Granchildren

This is what I wrote this month for Front Porch.

The horrors . . . .er I mean the benefits of grandchildren.

Linley has come to stay. And her being here is meant to be good for me.

Let me explain. 

Linley is my nine-week-old granddaughter. She is staying in our guest cottage as a waystation in a relocation from Boston to Richmond. She has brought her parents along – my eldest daughter Tegan and her husband Joe.

The vanguard of this move was a U-Haul full of furniture to be unloaded on what I swear was the hottest day in July. Then, back in Boston Tegan, got to 41 weeks, before having to employ what is a bit of a family tradition - a feisty curry to get labor started (it was the same with her mother).

Three weeks ago, this now homeless trio – with the addition of their rescues-dog Wellsley, a rambunctious chocolate Lab’ - arrived in a two car caravan. 

Seasoned Grandparents

My wife Paula and I have had grandchildren from her side (Donavan age 7 and Alice age 5) for 2 or three days a week since they were born. So grandchildren aren’t a complete novelty. 

The literature claims grandchildren are good for your health. This seemed a little fantastic and prompted research.

Now I know the benefits of grandchildren are:

  • They boost our immunity – which may seem perverse for these “germ-farm,” snot- nosed kids that poop everywhere. But my hypothesis is that it is the same mechanism as kids growing up in germy environments, like farms, who have a better immune systems.
  • They improved our cognitive function – maybe because grandam and grandpa have to figure out ways to not be outsmarted? Specifically, a study published by the North American Menopause Society notes “women who spend time taking care of grandkids lower their risk of developing Alzheimer’s.”
  • Emotional ties to the little dears protect against depression. 
  • Caring for your grandkids makes you more physically active – chasing after them round the house or anyone of a slew of recreational activities.
  • And the Berlin Aging Study even showed that grandparents live longer. Or could it be that it just seems that way?

One slight twist to this idea was a study in Social Science and Medicine about the health benefits to grandparents. This notes “grandmothers and not grandfathers” are the beneficiaries.

This seems to reinforce my slightly curmudgeonly observation that its grand-mothers who are so besotted by babies and we men maintain our austerity and emotional distance.

Though I have to say Linley is maybe making me change my tune. She is one of the cuter babies I’ve met. But maybe this a subliminal recognition that she is an extension of my ego? She is the persistence of some of my DNA?

Too Much of a Good Thing

You can over do it, it seems. The Berlin Ageing Study that showed increased longevity, tellingly did not include “grandparents who were primary care givers” – that is those grandparent-caregivers that had their grandchildren living with them.

When the grandkids are with you full time, so you can’t buy them noisy toys and fill them with sugar and give them back, they can be too much of a good thing.

An article in Wilmington reported “grandparent-caregivers experience depression, high blood pressure and other health problems at higher rates.”

Taking note of this, I shall have to have a talk with Linley and make very sure she really does go with Tegan and Joe when they do finally complete their move to Richmond – though the way the talk is going about how “it wouldn’t be bad to stay in Fredericksburg for a while,” she could be in college by then. 

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