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Grandparents Report Improved Mental Health after Spending Time with their Grandkids

by Dr James Brown and Parkdean Resorts(more info)

listed in retreats and travel, originally published in issue 258 - November 2019

 

New research has revealed that 56 percent of grandparents believe their mental health improves after spending time with their grandkids.

 

 

Great-Grandparent playing cricket with family

 

The study of 2,000 grandparents, commissioned by Parkdean Resorts in conjunction with Biogerontologist, Dr James Brown, Director of the Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing (ARCHA) and from Channel 4’s Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, revealed how spending time with the grandkids could be the answer to a happier and healthier life:

James explains: “Spending time with the grandchildren can kick start the process of improving mood, enhancing memory, bettering physical function and reducing loneliness in older adults. All of these benefits can help to slow down elements of age-related decline.”

 

Courtesy: Lucinda Barton

Courtesy: Lucinda Barton

 

Case Study: Lucinda Barton

Lucinda Barton lives with her husband and two young boys in Pulborough, and they enjoy going on a four-generation holiday every year. Lucinda’s 65-year-old mother, and her 91-year-old grandmother, join the annual family getaway on the UK coastline; it’s a time the whole family looks forward to.

Lucinda’s grandmother says: “I always feel much younger after holidaying with the children. They challenge me to do a lot more physically, which keeps my brain active.

“Just because you’re older, it doesn’t mean that mentally you’re old, I still feel like a 21-year-old at heart.”

Lucinda, who is a blogger (Bakes, Books & My Boys), takes her four-generation family to the stunning regions of Dorset and Cornwall; two areas that are perfect for a multigenerational getaway. From rock-pooling and walks on the beach, to trips to museums and historic houses, the whole family enjoy a range of activities whilst there.

And it’s not just physical activities that Lucinda’s 91-year old grandmother enjoys. Lucinda says: “The boys and my grandma teach each other so many new things. For example, my son has a kindle and a smartphone, and now she wants one too! The kids help her understand the world as it is today, and without them, I think she wouldn’t know about the technology available. I think an older person’s world can become a lot more limited when they’re not around children.”

A holiday can also spark a wide range of conversations between the older generation and young people, which comes as no surprise to Lucinda. She says: “My grandma and my sons get into the most incredible conversations about the world and politics, and because they have such different views due to their ages and their experiences in life, it’s fascinating to listen to.”

Making time for a four-generation holiday is so important to Lucinda, as she and her children live over an hour away from her grandmother, making spending quality time together difficult.

Lucinda adds: “When you’re older, an hour’s drive can feel much longer than it does for us, meaning my grandma only gets to spend an hour or two a week with my children during term time. That’s why we enjoy going on a four-generation holiday every year, as it gives my grandma something to look forward to and stops her feeling lonely. A holiday allows her to spend quality time with the grandkids and also to meet new people when we’re out and about, which gives her a lot more confidence in herself. I think you can lose confidence as you get older, especially if you are quite isolated.”

Sadly though, 51 percent of grandparents simply don’t get to see their grandchildren anywhere near as much as they’d like, with a further 14 percent confessing to hardly seeing them at all. 

With an ageing population in the UK, improving the health and happiness of our grandparents and great-grandparents is vital. According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 now live alone, with over 1 million older adults going for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.

Unfortunately, in many cases, families live further apart than ever before, and with busy lives it can be difficult for generations to connect. In fact, 40 percent of grandparents said they live too far away to see their grandkids, whilst 23 percent believe their family are too busy to spend time with them.

 

Great-Grandparent fishing with grandchild

 

Going on a family holiday is one way to spend more quality time together. In fact, a getaway can give older adults something to look forward to, which Dr James Brown believes is crucial:

“We know that psychology drives a lot of biology, and in older adults, without that sense of purpose or something to look forward to, biological systems can start to shut down and you can literally die of a broken heart.”

A holiday can also prompt nostalgic memories for older adults too, which is fundamental to keeping the brain young and improving memory function. James explains: “Autobiographical memory contains the information you have about yourself, and for most grandparents, a UK holiday will trigger nostalgic thoughts like ‘I can remember coming here when I was younger’ or ‘I can remember caravan holidays like this when I was a child.’”

And it’s not just mental and cognitive health that appears to improve after spending time with young children. Over 35 percent of grandparents believe their physical health significantly improves too.

 

Pat and Jacob

 

James adds: “Children encourage their grandparents to be more active and forget about their physical capabilities. It’s so easy for older adults to define themselves by their inabilities and disabilities, but a family holiday is the perfect opportunity for grandparents to remember just how much they can physically do.”

John Waterworth, Chief Executive of Parkdean Resorts, says: “A family holiday is the perfect opportunity to spend quality time together, away from the stresses of everyday life. It can remind older adults of the good old days, as many of them will have enjoyed UK holidays when they were younger, triggering a comforting sense of nostalgia.”

With more than 60 percent of grandparents reportedly not planning a family holiday in 2019, Dr James Brown has collaborated with Parkdean Resorts to share some of the health benefits of a multigenerational getaway.

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About Dr James Brown and Parkdean Resorts

Parkdean Resorts the UK’s largest holiday park operator in conjunction with Dr James Brown, Director of the Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing (ARCHA), commissioned a study of 2,000 grandparents which revealed how spending time with the grandkids could be the answer to a happier and healthier life.

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