Looking after your grandkids won’t make you feel younger, study finds | Grandparents and grandparents

Grandparents planning large amounts of mid-term childcare may want to think again after research purports to refute previous findings of a “rejuvenating effect” from caring for their grandparents. children.

Numerous studies have appeared to show mental and physical health benefits for those caring for their grandchildren. But neither researcher involved talking to the same grandparents before and after their caregiving responsibilities began.

When did the authors of Is there a rejuvenating effect of (old) childhood? A longitudinal study, published this week in The Journals of Gerontology, did, they found that caring for grandchildren did not make grandparents feel younger than their actual age.

The age people think they are – as opposed to the age on their birth certificate – is considered a strong indicator of their mental and physical well-being, sometimes even surpassing chronological age as a direct predictor of psychological and physical outcomes. health-related, including the risk of death.

“This is the first study to examine the same people before and after grandparenting in terms of effects on subjective age,” said report co-author Dr. Valeria Bordone.

Bordone is also co-author of a 2016 report, Do Grandchildren Influence How Old You Feel? This revealed that over-65s caring for grandchildren feel at least two years younger than their age, rising to 2.6 years for men aged 74-85.

But his new discoveries got him thinking. “Contrary to our 2016 findings, our new study found no effect on youth of the transition from not being a caregiver to becoming a grandchild caregiver for grandfathers or grandmothers,” said she declared.

The new study was welcomed by Professor Cecilia Tomassini, a senior member of the Grandparenting in Europe network of researchers.

“This research adds important insight to a question that hasn’t been asked before by tracing back to the same people,” she said. “Even studies of the same group have tended to lose sight of grandparents in poor health because they have dropped out of the research. This means that these articles have ended up focusing only on healthy grandparents, which is why they have, so far, received largely positive responses.

Bordone now believes that it is wrong to attribute a causal link between childcare and feeling younger. Instead, she says, the link is likely to have more to do with hidden selection effects. “It may be that the personality traits and family values ​​that cause grandparents to already have a young subjective age are overrepresented among people who care for others,” she said.

In short, rather than babysitting grandparents so that they feel young, it is the grandparents who already feel young who take care of the children more.

When Bordone researched this question in 2016, she asked adults who care for their grandchildren how young and healthy they felt. This time, she surveyed the same 7,730 adults aged 50 to 85 before they started childcare. Going back to a period when 21% started providing childcare, she asked the same question. Those who never provided childcare remained in the control group.

If your children’s grandparents are now hesitant to step up this half session, you may have better luck asking a friend or neighbor of grandparent age.

The research revealed the unexpected finding that there are slight benefits in older people caring for young children who are not their own parents. The assumption, Bordone said, is that unrelated children bring with them the rejuvenating effect of youth — without the same reminder of old age as grandchildren.

“Grandparenthood is a powerful reminder of a person’s aging and as such is likely to affect subjective age,” she said.

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