Rotten kids. They haven’t been rejuvenating me. That’s the message I get from one silly study.
Grandparents planning hefty amounts of childcare this half-term might want to think again after research claimed to disprove previous findings of a “rejuvenating effect” from looking after grandchildren.
Many studies have appeared to show mental and physical health advantages for those who care for their grandchildren. But none involved researchers talking to the same grandparents before and after their caregiving responsibilities began.
When the authors of Is There a Rejuvenating Effect of (Grand)Childcare? A Longitudinal Study, published this week in The Journals of Gerontology, did that, they found that caring for grandchildren failed to make grandparents feel any younger than their actual age.
Sorry, Iliana and Knut, you know I only visited you to leech youth-giving properties from you, like a vampire or Peter Thiel. Now I know it was all a sham, so I can stay home in the future.
The one interesting thing from the work is that it exposed selection bias in previous studies. Those studies compared how subjectively younger grandparents who took care of grandchildren felt, compared to those who didn’t. Aside from just the subjective evaluation of the effects, wouldn’t there be obvious bias in that you had to feel fairly healthy and vigorous to volunteer for child care in the first place? That’s hard work, yo. When they compared the same individuals before and after, the Fountain of Youth effect disappeared.
Surprise. I don’t even understand why this was considered a valid hypothesis in the first place, but then I’m not at all familiar with that literature.
You know, in all the times we’ve made the long trip to visit the grandkids, and all the times my wife has had extended stays to help with childcare, we’ve never once contemplated the peculiar notion that it might shave a few years of senescence off of us. Every trip back home we’re mainly dealing with tiredness, because the little ragamuffins can run us ragged.
We go because it makes us happy. Isn’t that enough?