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Building Relationships with Grandkids Reaps Many Benefits for Seniors

Plan for your children to have time with their grandparents, and encourage them to strengthen that relationship by sharing photo albums and family histories, or introducing a favorite hobby.
Plan for your children to have time with their grandparents, and encourage them to strengthen that relationship by sharing photo albums and family histories, or introducing a favorite hobby.

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August 16, 2011

Both grandchildren and their grandparents benefit from a strong relationship. But sometimes older adults need help building that bond. That’s where professional caregiving can make a difference.

Q: I’ve heard that the elderly benefit from a relationship with their grandchildren. What are those benefits and how can I help my 79-year-old parents develop a good rapport with my 10- and 12-year-old kids?

In a nutshell, helping your parents bond with your kids could keep them physically and emotionally healthier. One University of Southern California study even suggests that healthy family relationships can extend a senior’s life as much as three and one-half to four years.

The traditional role that grandparents play with their grandchildren is to pass down family traditions, values and history -- oftentimes through storytelling or reminiscing. A mounting pool of research indicates that reminiscing -- the process of recalling the past – has both psychological and physiological advantages for seniors including relief from depression, and improved self-esteem, cognitive functioning and feelings of well-being.

“Children are our immortality,” said Andrea Gross of Denver, owner of Legacy Prose, a company that assists families in collecting and recording stories from their elderly loved ones. “Grandchildren carry with them bits of who we are and were. When the grandparent has passed down his stories as well as his genes, he knows that his values, his beliefs, the essence of his being, will live on through his grandchildren,” she said.

“On the other hand, grandchildren keep seniors involved in the here and now by showing them they matter. They talk about their dreams and the future. And thus, by linking past and future, rapport is established, bonds are forged,” she said. “My own preference (and that of every grandparent I know) is that bonding is better when the grandkids' parents are NOT around,” Gross added.

Plan for your children to have time with their grandparents, and encourage them to strengthen that relationship by sharing photo albums and family histories, or introducing a favorite hobby. More grandparents are traveling with grandchildren, too, as part of a trend in intergenerational travel. In addition, weekend and day camps now exist for grandparents and grandchildren. Visit the internet to locate a camp near you.

If your senior loved one has a physical or mental limitation, consider asking a friend, or hiring a caregiver, to assist your parents. For instance, the local Home Instead Senior Care® office employs CAREGiversSM who have helped seniors email and write letters to their grandkids and plan special projects. Whatever you decide to do, encouraging your parents to build a relationship with your children is worth the time and effort.

For more information about Legacy Prose and Andrea Gross, visit www.legacyprose.com or call toll-free 1-877-396-5364. 

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