If you frequently ask Grandma and Grandpa to help out and babysit your kids, I have good news for you! Turns out it’s good for their health! Man, I feel better about asking Nana to watch the kids last Saturday even though they clogged the toilet. YOU’RE WELCOME, NANA.

According to 6ABC.com, 500 seniors participated in the Berlin Aging Study, and results are saying that those who babysat lived longer. Also, it didn’t matter whether they were their own grandkids or someone else’s. So, if any grandpas are roaming around looking for a place to hang out this week, stop by my cul-de-sac any afternoon for an epic Nerf gun battle. Medicine shmedicine! Apparently it will add years to your life if my boys shoot you in the butt with a dart. 

The article goes on to state that taking care of kids keeps seniors active (makes sense) and helps relieve stress (hmmm… really? My kids *may* challenge that, but okay). And the social interaction keeps elderly brains healthier. Lots to keep up with when a nine-year-old is shouting Minecraft facts at you and a seven-year-old invites you to a tea party and a four-year-old challenges you to an epic light saber battle. 

Doctors do warn, however, that if you are older and frequent a house as loud as mine, it’s important to find some middle ground as you offer your babysitting services. 

“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,” says Dr. Ronan Factora of the Cleveland Clinic. Like, don’t come visit my circus every single day, or your health may actually decline. Mine sure does.

The article also reminds readers that hanging out with grandparents is good for kids too, which I completely agree with. My kids have a special bond with all of their grandparents and learn so much from them. Like that there was actually life before iPads! 

And if you need even more concrete evidence of how valuable these friendships can be, read about Norah and Mr. Dan. As told by writer Tara Wood, her daughter Norah (who was four years old at the time) spotted an elderly man in the grocery store on her birthday and greeted him by saying, “Hello old person! It’s my birfday today!” (Norah had also given her mom the heads up that she was probably going to befriend an older person, telling her, “I like old peoples the best ‘cos they walk slow like I walk slow and they has soft skin like I has soft skin. They all gonna die soon so I’m gonna love ‘em all up before they is died.”)

I know, right? Can you even handle this cuteness?

So Tara wasn’t completely taken aback by her child greeting a complete stranger, but it seemed that Dan wasn’t either. He stopped to chat with the sweet girl and a friendship was born. Tara soon learned that Dan was a widow and suffering from extreme depression, so she and Norah decided to forge a real friendship with him, visiting his home and welcoming him into theirs. Dan shared with Tara that “he hadn’t had an uninterrupted night’s sleep since his wife died, but he told me that he has slept soundly every night since meeting my girl. ‘Norah has healed me,’ he said.”

And really, what else could show how important these friendships are than a story like that?

If you aren’t fortunate enough to live near grandparents or have them in your life, take your kids to a local retirement home to do a craft or have lunch with a senior. Around the holidays you can take your kids trick-or-treating or Christmas caroling there, too. You will see a light in the eyes of the elderly that maybe hasn’t shown in a while. And your kids will benefit too from making friends with someone who has lived a lifetime and has amazing stories to tell. And who also may be just a little bit lonely and in need of a friend.

Karen Johnson

Karen Johnson is a free-lance writer who blogs at The 21st Century SAHM http://www.the21stcenturysahm.com/ —a cathartic mix of sarcasm, angry Mama Bear rants, and confessions about how she's probably screwing up her kids. She is also assistant editor at Sammiches and Psych Meds and has had work featured on Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, What the Flicka, and Bon Bon Break, among others. Karen is also a contributing writer in Lose the Cape: Never Will I Ever (and then I had kids!) and in What Does It Mean to Be White in America? and she writes monthly for KC Parent magazine. Follow Karen on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/21stcenturysahm/, Twitter https://twitter.com/21stcenturysahm , and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/the21stcenturysahm/