What Are Post-Menopausal Women Good For?

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Photo: Ronnie Kaufman/Corbis

Many Americans are bugging about how our aging population will bankrupt Social Security and such, but some might say that grandmas are the only ones who can save us now. The New Republic's Judith Shulevitz traces the evolutionary importance of grandmothers and hints after how an elderly work force could be employed for the benefit of the children. After all, not only is Hillary Clinton killing it since she became a senior citizen, but, as the dean of Columbia University's school of public health told Shulevitz, "older adults constitute the only increasing natural resource in the entire world." 

Conjecturing as to why female humans live a lot longer than we procreate, which is rare among mammals, Shulevitz cites the “grandmother hypothesis." It states that post-menopausal longevity is evolutionarily advantageous because grandmothers are able to gather more food for their children's offspring, making their grandchildren healthier, prolonging their childhoods, and impoving their neural development.

Today, elderly people who volunteer at at-risk public schools are healthier and happier and their students do better. In another study, children who grew up with grandparents at home were less depressed. The number of children raised by their grandparents has increased steadily since 2000. Indeed, it's hard to think of a more efficent solution for single parents or two-income families buckling under the costs of child and elder care. Shulevitz doesn't say it, so we will: Maybe this is how women "have it all."