By Karen Best Wright, www.RaisingYourGrandchildren.com
Well friends, now that I am not a grandmother raising grandchildren full-time, I have decided to do what I would have done 8 years ago if I had not been blessed with that opportunity. I am going back to school for my master's degree. I am working on an M.A. in Psychology with a specialization in Health & Wellness. So I will share tidbits with you here and there as I go along that I feel are particularly applicable to grandmothers or grandfathers as well.
My first class is about Adult Development. Way back when I was in school the first time, we only studied about Child Development. It is really quite interesting to study about how adults grow and change and the different aspects of their growth.
Last night I was reading about research by cellular biologist Elizabeth Blackburn and her colleagues. Let me first explain that at the tips of some cells, there are lengths of repeating DNA called telomeres. Telomeres appear to be like timekeepers of the cells. When telomers are used up the cell quits dividing: it dies. Elizabeth Blackburn's research was comparing 2 groups of women. One group was highly stressed mothers whose children had a chronic illness. The other group was of low stressed mothers with healthy children. The outcome of the study was that the telomores of highly stressed mothers were much shorter than the low stressed mothers. In fact the highly stressed women were comparable to low-stressed women ten years older them themselves. The conclusion, stress affects aging at the cellular level. Huge stress makes people age faster.
Now my question is, if this affects young mothers this way, how even more drastic does it affect grandmothers in their 50's or 60's who are full-time caregivers of either grandchildren or elderly parents. I think this would be an interesting study. But I think we can be quite certain what the conclusion would be. Our telomeres are probably shrinking even faster, not a good thought.
Grandmothers raising grandchildren or even caring for their own aging parents may not be able to reduce the resulting stress, but we can do many things to help combat the cellular degeneration caused by the stress. A really good stress reduction program consisting of extra nutritional foods, exercise, an emotional support system, relaxation, achievable goals, attitude adjustment, along with faith and prayer can help.
What helped me the most? Improving my eating habits, lots of fruits and vegetables and fish. Now that the children are back with their mother, I am pursuing other stressful adventures, like college again. I guess I am just not ready to slow down.
Karen Wright, Health & Wellness Educator
a grandmother in love with her grandchildren