Keeping us young? Grandchild caregiving and older adults' cognitive functioning

TitleKeeping us young? Grandchild caregiving and older adults' cognitive functioning
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of PublicationForthcoming
AuthorsCaputo, J, Cagney, KA, Waite, L
ISSN Number0022-2445
KeywordsCaregiving, Dementia, grandchildren, health, intergenerational relationships, Longitudinal research

Objective; This study investigates longitudinal associations between providing care to grandchildren and cognitive functioning. It also examines heterogeneity in these relationships. Background: Grandchild caregiving may support older adults' cognitive functioning by providing social engagement and emotional meaning. However, studies caution that time-intensive or custodial grandchild caregiving can take a toll on grandparents. The cognitive health implications of grandchild caregiving may thus depend on contexts including time spent providing care and living arrangements. They may also vary across sociodemographic groups and have greater effects on older adults who are more vulnerable to cognitive decline. Method: Data came from the 1998-2016 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and represented over 11,000 US adults aged 50+. Using linear growth curve and dynamic panel models, the analysis explored relationships between level of grandchild care and cognitive functioning over time and across sociodemographic, family, work, and health characteristics. Results: Those providing 100-199, 200-499, or 500+ h of care to grandchildren had better cognitive functioning than non-caregivers regardless of whether they lived with grandchildren. Positive links between grandchild caregiving and cognition were stronger for lower income, non-working, and unpartnered adults and grew with age and functional limitations. Conclusion: These findings suggest that providing care to minor grandchildren may help support cognitive functioning as adults age. They also support the hypothesis that more vulnerable or isolated groups of older adults may benefit the most from grandchild caregiving.

Citation Key WOS:001085701200001