Thomas R. Kelley, MDThomas R. Kelley, MD
Family Medicine
Orlando Health

Ask any grandparent about their grandkids, and you’ll likely hear all about the joy they bring. But as it turns out, your adorable grandchild can add more than just a smile to your face – they can add years to your life.

Studies show that active grandparenting reduces stress, increases mental engagement, encourages better physical health and boosts longevity. Even in older adults without grandchildren, research shows that spending time with young children and caring for them extends life span.

Grandchildren Keep You Active 

If you’ve ever babysat for a toddler, you know they don’t sit still, which means you don’t, either. Whether playing catch, making meals or just picking up their toys, one big benefit of helping care for your grandchildren is that it gets you up and moving.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults should get 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week to help to maintain their strength and stamina, as well as reduce health risks such as high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis.

The added motivation of wanting to stay healthy and present for your grandkid’s milestones prompts, many seniors to keep those preventative doctor visits and make healthier food choices.

Grandkids Keep You Mentally Alert

In addition to moving your body, taking care of grandchildren exercises your brain. Spending time with them requires memory, analysis and multi-tasking, not to mention quick reflexes. This boost to your mental activity strengthens nerve cell connections, helping to slow cognitive decline and potentially ward off Alzheimer’s disease.

To keep engaged with older grandchildren, stay involved in their interests, music or technology. Many seniors find themselves learning to play video games or attending sporting events that might not have been a part of their daily life before grandkids. Long-distance grandparents can master new skills using social media or video chat rooms to communicate with their grandkids.

Grandkids Lift Your Spirits

One of the biggest issues many seniors deal with is loneliness and depression. Studies show this stress does more than make you sad, it actually weakens your immune system by slowing the body’s cellular response against bacteria and viruses.

To combat this, maintain an active role in the lives of your children and grandchildren. This keeps you social, helps you rediscover a sense of purpose, lifts your spirits, and most importantly, keeps you emotionally engaged.

Your Presence Is a Gift 

Finally, remember, enjoying time with your grandchildren does more than just help you, it enriches their lives, too.

Grandparents can do more than just help with their grandchildren’s physical care. Some things grandparents provide to their grandchildren include:

  • Stability and safety, especially in strained familial situations
  • Connections between siblings and cousins
  • Cultural and community ties, especially in families with different traditions and language
  • Unique life experience that can help their grandchildren navigate moral and ethical questions
  • Improved language skills
  • A bridge across the generational divide through shared wisdom and tales from the past 

Statistics show more and more grandparents are taking on an active role in raising their grandkids, both by choice and necessity, making this special relationship between grandchildren and grandparent even more beneficial to everyone involved.