Grandparenting predicts late-life cognition: Results from the Women's Healthy Ageing Project

Maturitas. 2015 Jun;81(2):317-22. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2015.03.013. Epub 2015 Mar 23.


Social engagement provides dynamic stimulation for older individuals that influences cognition. Grandparenting is an increasingly popular form of childcare that provides social activity for older adults.

Objective: To investigate the relationship between grandparenting, as a form of social engagement, and cognitive function in adults aged over 65, a decade after our previous work.

Study design: Participants were 224 Australian women (mean age=70) from the longitudinal prospective Women's Healthy Ageing Project (WHAP). Cognitive function was assessed using a neuropsychological battery consisting of previously validated measures including the California Verbal Learning Test, Digit Span task, and Controlled Oral Word Association Test. Individual test scores were combined using factor analysis into executive function and episodic memory scores.

Results: Grandmothers minding grandchildren had higher executive function than those who were not minding grandchildren or who did not have grandchildren (p<0.05). Minding grandchildren for one day per week predicted better executive function performance than more frequent grandparenting (p<0.05), consistent with previous findings.

Conclusions: While grandparenting is associated with better executive function overall, highly frequent grandparenting is associated with lower executive function, which may be due to demands. Social engagement comprises various aspects which need to be taken into consideration when studying cognition.

Keywords: Ageing; Caregiving; Cognition; Social engagement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Grandparents / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prospective Studies