Grandparents and matters of the heart

Print More

(Host) It’s the time of year many of us are humming about going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. Commentator Cheryl Hanna shares some surprising information that may be affecting Gramma’s health.

(Hanna) More tofu turkey substitutes will be served this Thanksgiving than ever before as more and more Americans worry about heart disease.

Well, it turns out that if want to help grandma stay healthy, its not just old Tom Turkey that you should leave at home.

Researchers at Harvard have just added yet another thing to the list that can be bad for your health.


The University recently released a study finding that taking care of your grandchildren for just a few hours a day can increase the risk of heart disease.

In fact, the risk of heart disease for women who care for their grandchildren as little as nine hours a week is 55% higher than for those women who don’t watch their grandchildren at all.

The reason, researchers suggest, is stress.

Well, everybody knows that chasing after toddlers can wear you out, and keeping track of teenagers can really raise your blood pressure at times, but it may also be that grandmas who look after their grandchildren just don’t look after themselves.

You need time and energy to go to the doctor, exercise, and eat right — time and energy that baby-sitting grandmothers, especially those who care for children full time, may not have.

So the study suggests that parents need more day care options so they don’t rely on grandparents.

Now, aside from the fact that good day care can be hard to find, I think that this policy recommendation may be a little off target.

My guess is that most seniors would prefer spending time with their little loved ones over a possibly longer, but probably lonelier, life.

And most kids know that no day care program in the world can replace a grandparent’s love.

Besides, currently six million children in the United States – one in twelve – live with a grandparent or other relative.

Here in Vermont, more than 5,000 children live in a home headed by a grandparent.

And in many, it’s grandma or grandpa who’s the primary caretaker.

Sadly however, there are few laws or – what are called kinship initiatives – to help support them.

So recently, hundreds of grandparents gathered at the nation’s capital for a Grand Rally, asking Congress to provide them with services, including improved housing, respite care, and more legal rights.

And in New York, Governor Pataki signed legislation improving legal standing and services to grandparents.

It’s time the Vermont legislature considers similar action.

Rather than wait for federal programs, our lawmakers should take a hard look at what’s going on with grandparents who are raising children a second time around. They need better support so families can stay together AND stay healthy.

It’ll be good for the kids, good for the community, and, it turns out, good for the heart.

And that’s something we could all be thankful for.

This is Cheryl Hanna.

Comments are closed.