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Caring for Grandkids Once a Week Can Keep Grandmothers Mentally Sharp

Update Date: Apr 08, 2014 01:42 PM EDT

When people age, cognitive abilities can start to decline. However, based on several studies, researchers have found that some seniors experience mental decline at a much slower rate than others based on various factors such as participating in mentally stimulating tasks. In a new study, researchers examined another way that can help seniors stay sharp. The team from Australia found that grandmothers who care for their grandkids just once a week are mentally sharper than grandmothers who are constantly caring for their grandkids.

"We know that older women who are socially engaged have better cognitive function and a lower risk of developing dementia later, but too much of a good thing just might be bad," said Executive Director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Margery Gass, MD.

For this study, the researchers examined 186 Australian women taken from the Women's Healthy Aging Project study. 120 of the women in the study were grandmothers. The women were between the ages of 57 and 68. They underwent three different tests that measured their mental sharpness. The researchers also questioned the women about the burdens they felt from their own children.

The researchers found that in the grandmother group, the women who cared for their grandchildren once a week had the best scores on two out of the three tests. The grandmothers who cared for their grandkids for more than five days a week had the lowest scores on one of the three tests. The particular test measured their working memory and mental processing speed.

The researchers also reported that the grandmothers who spent more time caring for their grandchildren also reported feeling more pressure from their own children. They were more likely to say that their children were demanding.

"Because grandmothering is such an important and common social role for postmenopausal women, we need to know more about its effects on their future health," says Dr. Gass in the press release. "This study is a good start."

The study was published in NAMS's journal, Menopause.

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