A recent study out of Australia shows that spending a moderate amount of time caring for grandkids may prevent Alzheimer’s Disease by increasing brain function and memory.
"He’s our first grandson and we are just thrilled to pieces about having him in our lives," said Mary Humm.
She and husband Patrick are grandparents of 2-month-old Alex.
"We’ve got several other grandparent families in the neighborhood and we’re ready to join that group," said Patrick.
Their initiation as caretakers to Alex may not have been easy.
"I found that I had to reach back into the recesses of my memories of what it was like to calm and soothe a baby," said Mary.
But research suggests babysitting boosts brain power and decreases the chances of developing depression.
"One of the best things you can do as you get older is to maintain those interactions with other human beings," said Dr. Diana Kerwin, chief of geriatrics at Texas Health Dallas and founder of Texas Alzheimer's and Memory Disorders.
Kerwin noted that babysitting stimulates brain tissues benefiting your memory.
"If you think about when you do take care of a child, you tend to become more of a teacher – you’re teaching them new experiences, maybe taking them to the zoo or working on vocabulary with them... it's stimulating for the babysitter’s brain as well," said Dr. Kerwin.
The extra physical activity involved with caring for children is a bonus. Kerwin noted that you're more likely to be engaging in activities like going to the park, pushing children on a swing or going for a walk.
"It's really good exercise taking care of a baby," said Mary. "You’re swinging them, you’re rocking them."
Texas Health has a class called "Grandparents 101" for this new generation of grandmas and grandpas. They learn updated safety guidelines, infant CPR, and how to childproof their home.
For the Humms, the class got them out of their rut and ready for whatever little Alex throws their way.
"You don’t have time to think about anything else," said Mary. "It's a wonderful exercise in love, it really is."
The Australian study focuses on caring for grandchildren one day per week. Research showed grandparents that spend five days a week or more caring for little ones may have a higher risk of developing neurodegenerative disorders.