Who wants to be stuck at home alone on a dreary winter afternoon, when you can take a trip across the globe or the galaxy?
As avid readers know, a good book can take you anywhere without leaving the comfort of your favorite chair. In fact, a Pew Research Center study reports 80% of adults 65 and older read mainly for pleasure.
And, now, new research gives older adults even more reasons to read.
Latest research from this new study
Recently, Frontiers of Psychology published a study that explored whether reading helps preserve memory skills as people age. During the eight-week trial, one group of older adults read for 90 minutes a day, five days each week. Meanwhile, a control group completed word puzzles on iPads.
Ultimately, the readers showed significant improvements in working memory and episodic memory compared to the word puzzle group. The study’s authors concluded regular, engaged reading strengthened older adults’ memory skills.
Regular, engaged reading strengthened older adults’ memory skills.
The benefits of being a bookworm
Many articles and studies stress the need for developing literacy skills in children. However, maintaining those skills is equally important for older adults, as reading is associated with:
- Improved memory and recall
- Better decision-making skills
- Reduced anxiety
- Stress relief
- Better overall sleep
- Lower risk for cognitive changes such as dementia or Alzheimer’s
Ideas to rekindle a love of reading
During their lifetime, this generation of seniors grew up reading for everything from “Nancy Drew” to “The Shining.” Even if you or an older friend or relative hasn’t read for pleasure in years, you can easily and cost-effectively rekindle that interest with a few simple steps.
Share the stories (and the fun) with family, friends and the community
Although reading is considered a solitary activity, it doesn’t have to be.
Connect with a club. If you’re open to reading a variety of books in different genres and lively discussions that incorporate many points of view, consider joining a book club. Frequently, retirement communities have both their own library and thriving book clubs with open membership policy.
Start a book circle of your own. Recruit family members and/or friends and settle on a selection. Then, make plans to discuss the book over dinner or cocktails. If you’re concerned about the cost of buying books, choose a book with multiple copies available at your local library.
Share your flare for reading. If your loved one reads with flare, encourage them to share their skill. They can volunteer to read aloud to grandkids or at schools, library story time or to other adults with impairments.
Get a good book
What are the best books for seniors? Anything they’ll read—newspapers, comics, magazines, short stories, novels and nonfiction. Luckily, there’s no shortage of recommendations at your local library, online or senior community websites such as Integrated Senior Lifestyles and Enlivant.
Experiment with tried-and-new techniques
Reading can become physiologically harder with age. However, there are easy, inexpensive accommodations to overcome common obstacles related to vision problems, arthritis, neuropathy and even cognitive issues.
The 20/20/20 technique: To prevent eye strain, your loved one should practice the 20/20/20 technique: Every 20 minutes, they should look at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
Find a volunteer reader. Engage a volunteer reader to read aloud to your loved one or an entire circle of bookworms. After each chapter or session, you might invite the reader (and group) for coffee to discuss what might happen next.
Dust off your old-school techniques. If focusing is a challenge for your loved one, try reading in a quiet space, free of distractions. They can employ their old grade-school methods to keep their place on the page, such as reading out loud, mouthing the words or using a sheet of paper under each line of text (so their eyes don’t skip ahead).
Turn to technology
E-readers: With their well-lit screens, one-finger page swipes and adjustable font sizes, an iPad, Kindle or other electronic reading device allows older adults to have an entire library at their fingertips.
Audiobooks: Audiobooks are popular with people of all ages who prefer to listen to a book while multi-tasking. For some seniors, reading along with an audiobook enhances the experience by making sure they don’t miss any words. Their favorite author’s latest opus is likely to be on an app such as audiobooks.com (which is usually free with Apple and Android devices).
Large print books: Available at your local library and bookstore, large print versions of everything from the classics to bestsellers feature a larger-size type. To compensate for bigger text, the books often have more pages. Still, with greater ease of reading, they’re likely to cover the same number of chapters per sitting.
Book lights: Shine a light on any subject (literally) with a lightweight device that clips to the side of the book or directly on the page itself.
Magnifiers: Depending on their size, handheld magnifiers can enlarge the text of a single section or an entire page.
Book rests and holders: With models ranging from sturdy plastic or lightweight quilted fabric, these ergonomically designed devices hold a book steady on a bedside table or in an older adult’s lap.
Begin a new chapter
No matter their age, it’s never too late for an older adult to begin a new chapter of life as an avid reader.
With help from technology and a book club, they can make new memories and enhance their working and episodic memory skills at the same time.