Society has changed in many ways and one of them is putting off having children until later in life. This means the average age of Americans becoming grandparents for the first time is increasing, creating a larger generation gap between grandchildren and grandparents.
Despite these trends, numerous studies show that being a grandparent has its benefits, both psychologically as well as physically. In general, people who truly enjoy their grandparent role report feeling younger, believe that people become old at older ages (“the 70s are the new 60s”), and want to stay healthy and live longer lives than those who do not enjoy grandparenting. In simple terms, being a grandparent motivates older adults to stay as healthy as possible.
While comedian Rita Rudner once said “Have children while your parents are still young enough to take care of them”, another trend in the U.S. involves grandparents raising their grandchildren. As a matter of fact, nearly 6 million children live with their grandparents, providing financial assistance, clothing, food, purchasing a car and eventually sending them to college.
One study showed that being a grandmother who provided care for her grandchild just one day a week reduced her risk for developing dementia. grandfathers, on the other hand, who have meaningful relationships with their grandchildren are less likely to become depressed in later life.
It appears that grandchildren provide purpose and meaning to their grandparents. They challenge and motivate grandparents to be more active, alert and engaged. Research has shown that happy grandparenting is part of a healthy lifestyle, and contributes to higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction.