Grandchild Caregiving and Cognitive Health Among Grandparents in Rural South Africa

J Aging Health. 2021 Oct;33(9):661-673. doi: 10.1177/08982643211006592. Epub 2021 Mar 31.


Objectives: We investigate how caregiving for grandchildren is associated with cognitive function among rural South Africans, and whether the association differs by gender. We further investigate whether measures of physical activity or social engagement mediate this association. Methods: Data were from interviews with 3668 Black, South African grandparents in the "Health and Aging in Africa: A Longitudinal Study of an INDEPTH Community in South Africa" study, conducted between 2014 and 2015. Results: We find that caregiving grandparents have better cognitive function than non-caregiving grandparents, and this association does not differ by grandparent gender. Although grandchild caregiving is associated with physical activity and social engagement measures, and some of these measures are associated with cognitive function, we do not find conclusive evidence of mediation. Discussion: Providing care for grandchildren may stimulate cognitive function for both grandmothers and grandfathers. Neither physical activity nor social engagement explains the association between caregiving and cognitive function.

Keywords: caregiving; cognitive function; grandparents; physical activity; social support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cognition
  • Grandparents*
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • South Africa