If you’ve ever heard of the infamous Berlin Study, that’s because it’s been cited more than 800 times in the last two decades. It was an exhaustive study, conducted between the years 1990 and 1993, on 516 individuals between the ages of 70 and 100 and who lived in West Berlin. At the time, researchers were looking for information covering mental, physical, social, and emotional well-being. But while it started out as a series of interviews, it has since continued on as a longitudinal — and highly fascinating — study on aging.
One of the more recent discoveries that’s been made from the research? Apparently, grandparents who babysit may actually live longer. Seriously — science says so! (And if that’s not reason enough to hit up your parents more for free babysitting, I’m not sure what is.)
According to the study, grandparents who babysit their grandchildren have a unique benefit of warding off signs of aging. Researchers — and mothers everywhere — think this is because kids literally keep us on our toes. So between all the social interaction mixed with physical activity, seniors aren’t just spending quality time with their progeny when they babysit; they’re also gaining significant health benefits.
But before you go kicking up your heels with excitement, researchers warn that too much of a good thing can sour quickly, so this isn’t exactly an excuse to ring up your parents every day to babysit. Dr. Ronan Factora told ABC7 Eyewitness News this week that “You want to make sure that you find that right balance where you are doing what you can to stay active, doing good for the folks that you’re helping out with, but don’t do too much where you get to the point where you’re overly stressed.”
Okay, makes sense.
When I first heard about this study, I immediately reached out to my mother-in-law, Lynn, who watches my three rambunctious children on a fairly regular basis. When asked if she felt that babysitting my kids made her feel healthy and alive she had … well, quite a response.
After pouring herself a glass of wine and laughing out loud in a tone that sounded somewhere between exasperated and sarcastic, she said,”Ha! Oh, yeah, I’m a living fountain of youth! HAHAHAHAH!”
We joked for a while about crazy my kids are (and all kids in general, for that matter), when she added: “You know, as much as I complain sometimes about being to old to do this, the truth is that my grandbabies really do make me feel younger. And not because I’m running around after them, which I do!”
She also went on to talk about how satisfying it is to see her grandkids walking in the same footsteps as her grown children, and shared that there’s a certain amount levity involved in raising, or helping to raise, small children. So maybe there was something to this study, after all.
While I had her on the phone, clearly feeling jovial from my own glass of wine and that uncomfortably long cackling laugh of hers, I asked her if she would watch the kids this Friday night so that her son and I could have a date night.
She started LOLing until the phone went silent — so it looks like I’ll be home watching my own brood on Friday after all. But hey … there’s always next week?