National Grandparents Day, which began 42 years ago, and is observed on September 13th this year, celebrates the unique and lasting bond between grandchildren and grandparents. Grandparents provide a safe environment for their grandchildren to experience unconditional love. It appears that the earlier these bonds are formed, the greater the chances that they will last, for the child and especially for the elder, as their own circle of friends and family shrinks over time.
Busy parents of young children are frequently stressed between juggling their careers while raising their children. Grandparents can connect in a less harried and more patient manner, which will benefit the children even as they become adults, and become parents and grandparents themselves. Boston College collected data over 19 years about the relationships of over 375 grandparents and their grandchildren, and concluded that children and grandparents who have strong relationships with each other, will both experience fewer symptoms of depression. Additionally, these regular relationships can provide a will to live and a decrease in social isolation which can help grandparents to remain cognitively intact.
Today, families often live far apart from each other, making it challenging to create and maintain these special connections. The current pandemic has further impacted this ability to bond in person. Thankfully, technology such as FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom has helped to bridge the distance by providing ongoing face-to-face connections, even if it may only be via phone or computer.
For parents, it is important to foster grandparent-grandchild connections by suggesting activities that can be shared both in person and via the internet, including having grandparents read to their grandchildren or vice versa, teaching them a hobby that they enjoy – such as card games, knitting or cooking, and encouraging grandparents to share stories about their life. It is equally important to ensure grandparents remain cognitively healthy by helping them to eat well, exercise, stay mentally stimulated, and connected to the world.
A key component to successful aging is to continue to develop new memories, even as one becomes frailer. And one of the best ways to do so is through the shared connection between older and younger generations. This Grandparents Day, make a commitment to helping that happen.
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