FAMILY TIES: Pottsville grandmother Jeanette Buchanan enjoys looking after her grandchildren (from left) Shiloh, Jax and Ivy Hart.
FAMILY TIES: Pottsville grandmother Jeanette Buchanan enjoys looking after her grandchildren (from left) Shiloh, Jax and Ivy Hart. Yvonne Gardiner

Grandkids lighten up my life

POTTSVILLE grandmother Jeanette Buchanan is well aware of the benefits of caring for her eight grandchildren.

The offspring of her four children - another two babies are on the way - "light up your life", she said.

"You only have to see them and you're happy.

"We spend as much time as we can with them. We do a lot together.

"I love it. I live for them."

Ms Buchanan has been looking after her grandchildren regularly, often four at a time, from when the eldest was three months old. That's six years ago. As well as caring for her family, she's in a "caring" profession, working four days a week as a medical receptionist.

Ms Buchanan has also had experience of nursing a best friend in the final stage of life.

This "caring" side of her nature could prolong her life span.

According to the latest research from Edith Cowan University, grandparents who care for their grandchildren live up to five years longer than those who don't.

Dr David Coall from ECU's School of Medical and Health Sciences said the research showed the benefits of caring also extended beyond grandchildren.

"Older people who cared for their own adult children or other members of the community showed the same increase in longevity," he said.

"This research shows the positive link between caregiving and a longer lifespan in older people, however, we can only speculate as to why.

"Previous research points to 'helping' behaviour as a stress buffer which involves, for example, the hormone oxytocin which can strengthen bonding between people.

"This link could be a mechanism deeply rooted in our evolutionary past when help with childcare was crucial for the survival of the human species."

There can however be too much of a good thing.

Other research conducted by Dr Coall's research group at ECU found negative physical and mental health impacts among grandparents who care full-time for their grandchildren.

Dr Coall said there was no "magic bullet" amount of caregiving to best boost longevity.

"It is very important that every individual decides for themselves what moderate amounts of help means," he said.

"As long as you do not feel stressed about the intensity of help you provide, you may be doing something good for others as well as for yourself."

Other scientific evidence suggests that quality time with the grandkids has incredible health benefits for both grandma and grandpa.

Researchers in a study conducted by The Women's Healthy Aging Project in Australia observed 186 grandmothers who took care of their grandkids and looked at how grandparenting affected cognition, or intelligence.

The study found that grandmothers who spent one day a week looking after grandkids were more likely to offset dementia and had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Apparently, keeping up with the kids and answering their sometimes endless questions helps keep the memory sharp.

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