CLEVELAND – According to a recent study, grandparents who help watch their grandkids or who provide support to others may actually live longer than other seniors.
Ronan Factora, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic did not take part in the study, but said there are several reasons why seniors reap the health rewards of caregiving.
“We know that as you age, you want to stay physically active; you want to stay socially engaged; you want to be cognitively stimulated; and all those things allow you to age well,” said Dr. Factora.
Researchers examined data from more than 500 people ages 70 and older, who took part in the Berlin Aging Study.
Grandparents who were primary caregivers for grandchildren were not included in the study.
They found that seniors who provided some care, whether for their grandchildren or for others, had a lower risk of death over a 20 year period than those who did not help others.
“There is a link between providing this care and reducing stress and we know the relationship between stress and higher risk of dying,” said Dr. Factora. “If providing care to grandchildren and others in need is one way that can actually reduce stress, then these activities should be of benefit to folks who are grandparents and provide this care to their grandkids.”
Dr. Factora also said caregiving can be physically demanding, which can help keep the body young.
However, he said too much caregiving, to the point where it is overwhelming, can have the opposite effect and actually be the source of stress and aging.
“You want to make sure that you find that right balance between getting the positive benefits of doing enough of an activity to help those in need and avoiding doing too much and getting to the point where the activity makes one overly stressed,” said Dr. Factora.
Dr. Factora said another benefit for seniors who provide care is the social interaction that it provides, which is key to keeping the brain healthy.
Complete results of the study can be found in Evolution and Human Behavior.