The latest news on babysitting and brain research won’t surprise many mothers or grandmothers who spend time with their children or grandchildren.

According to a new research grandmothers’ brains benefit from babysitting. So what benefits can you reap if you help out with the grandchildren?

Babysitting Helps Lower Risk of Alzheimer’s

Grandparents will attest to how spending time with grandchildren keeps your mind (and body) active. A new study from the Women’s Health Aging Project in Australia monitored the cognitive function of 180 women who were caregivers for their grandchildren. The study results showed that postmenopausal women who cared for grandchildren one day a week showed a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as well as other cognitive issues.

Interestingly, however, grandparents who watch little children for five days a week or more may run a higher risk of:

  • developing neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, or Alzheimer’s,
  • lower working memory,
  • slower processing speed, and
  • in general lower cognitive function.

Researchers thought mood was the culprit there.

The study is the first one to study the connection between babysitting and cognitive function. The results seem to say that occasional child care prevents social isolation and the resulting depression so often found in seniors.

Anti-depressive effect on seniors and children

A long study from the Institute on Aging in Boston followed 376 seniors and 340 children for 19 years. The findings indicated that the closer the relationship was between the grandparents and the children, the less inclined either of the groups were to develop depression. Grandparents who both gave and received support were the least likely to exhibit symptoms of depression.

Grandma activities

Activities seniors can share with grandchildren

  • A tea party, with dress up time and real china cups
  • Backyard camping (or even camping in the living room if you live in an apartment without a backyard)
  • Family tree research and design
  • Pick your own fruit at a local farm and then bake a pie with the fruit you picked (that’s two activities for the price of one)
  • Walk through the neighborhood woods (if you are lucky enough to have one) or visit a nature preserve
  • Teach your grandkids your favorite card game
  • Read books with your grandkids and invite their friends to start a book club
  • Write letters to each other — or make notations about joint activities in a journal
  • Visit the local zoo
  • Share a lifelong lesson and generate a love of hobbies (crocheting, woodworking, etc.)

If you look at this list carefully, you will see that not only do the activities mentioned teach children something about the world and about you and their families, they also keep the senior mind busy and flexible. Some of the activities even get both you and your grandkids outside into the fresh air. That’s beneficial to everyone involved.

Remember, the “support” goes both ways

It was seen in the local Australian study, the group of seniors who had the fewest symptoms of depression were those who not only gave support to their children/grandchildren but received support in return. This type of support can take the form of rides to doctor appointments, or going grocery shopping together, rides to church or to other social settings where seniors gather to play games or listen to stories. (It is important for seniors to spend time with other seniors because the senior group shares common memories and social traditions and practices.) Maybe the grandparent needs help with chores around the house or perhaps would appreciate some money for the little “extras”. There are so many ways you can give back to grandparents for the wonderful gift of love they give to their grandkids.

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