How many years can you expect to spend as a healthy grandparent?

Americans and Canadians are spending more years as grandparents than they did a generation ago, and they’re spending them in better health, a new study finds—even though they’re older when their grandkids are born.

“Despite the delays in the transition to grandparenthood and the fact that the population of grandparents is now older, the length of healthy grandparenthood has increased over the study period for men and women in both countries,” write sociologists Rachel Margolis of the University of Western Ontario and Laura Wright of the University of Saskatchewan in a recent paper in the journal Demography.

“Grandparents have significantly more healthy years overlapping with grandchildren than they did two decades ago.”

On average, an American woman who reaches age 50 can look forward to about 19 years as a healthy grandmother, according to the paper, while an American man who reaches age 50 can expect about 16 years as a healthy grandfather.

“Grandparents have significantly more healthy years overlapping with grandchildren than they did two decades ago,” according to new research.

By contrast, in the early 1990s, an American woman could bet on only about 16 years of healthy grandparenthood after age 50; an American man could bet on only about 13.

Both men and women in the United States can also expect to spend another six years of grandparenthood in middling health or worse, Margolis and Wright determined, a figure that hasn’t changed much since the 1990s.

The transition to grandparenthood for both genders is later than it used to be, though just over half of Americans still become grandparents by age 50 and about three-quarters are grandparents by their late 60s.

The scholars arrived at these findings by analyzing data from the international Human Mortality Database and from two large-scale longitudinal surveys, the Health and Retirement Study and the National Survey of Families and Households, in which Americans are periodically asked how healthy they are and how many grandchildren they have, among many other questions.

Their findings were similar for Canadians: a 50-year-old woman in Canada can now look forward to about 17 years of healthy grandmotherhood, up from about 15 in the 1980s; a 50-year-old man can expect about 14 years of healthy grandfatherhood, compared to only about 11 in the 1980s.

Those findings are based on data from the Human Mortality Database and the longitudinal Canadian General Social Survey.

In their analysis, Margolis and Wright counted grandparents as healthy if they described their health as “good,” “very good,” or “excellent”; they counted grandparents as unhealthy if they described their health as “very poor,” “poor,” or “fair.”

In the United States, the duration of healthy grandparenthood varies widely by ethnicity and level of educational attainment, Margolis and Wright found. On average, white Americans can expect a longer period of healthy grandparenthood than black and Latino Americans can, and Americans with 12 or more years of schooling can expect to spend more years as healthy grandparents than their less-educated counterparts.