The Value of Reading for Senior Citizens

There are many benefits that reading brings to the elderly, some of which can even help them to age in place longer and in a healthier way. Here, the senior care providers at Avila Home Care detail the benefits that reading can bring to senior citizens.

Decreases Stress

According to research conducted in 2009 by the University of Sussex, reading a book is the most effective way to relieve stress, more so than listening to music, taking a walk or enjoying a warm beverage. Stress has an array of hazardous effects on the body, and particularly for seniors, stress can exacerbate other chronic health conditions and make it more difficult to recover from injuries and illness. By reducing stress through reading, seniors can improve their physical and mental health, making it easier for them to age in place and maintain independence.

Helps Prevent Cognitive Decline

Cognitive decline is a common experience for seniors, but it can be limited by engaging in mentally stimulating activity, such as reading. According to research published in the journal Neurology, senior citizens who regularly engaged in mentally stimulating activities, including reading, later in life had a 32% lower rate of mental decline compared to those who only occasionally performed mentally stimulating activities. Those who participated infrequently in mentally stimulating activity experienced mental decline at a 48% faster rate than the average group. Although these results measured a variety of mentally stimulating activities, and not just reading, reading is an easy and inexpensive choice for most seniors due to the availability of libraries and ease of use.

May Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s

A 2001 study found that adults who engaged in brain-based hobbies, such as puzzles or reading, were less likely to have Alzheimer’s than those who did not. The researchers believed this was because the brain, like any other muscle, will deteriorate more rapidly if it is not used and challenged regularly. As Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, taking steps to prevent its onset can be very beneficial to aging in place.

Improves Quality of Sleep

Chronic pain, side effects of medication, incontinence, anxiety and many other factors may make it challenging for seniors to fall and stay asleep but reading before bed can help improve senior’s ability to sleep. Experts recommend engaging in a quiet, relaxing activity before bed, as this slows down the brain and helps indicate to your body that it is time to go to sleep. Before going to bed, it is best to read from a paperback book, and not an e-reader or tablet, as the light from these devices may negatively impact the brain’s circadian rhythm, making it more challenging to fall asleep.

Solutions for Those Who Have Vision Problems or Other Complicating Factors

Many elderly people may have difficulty reading on their own, often due to reduced vision or chronic health concerns. Audiobooks may be a valuable substitute in these instances, as processing spoken word is still considered a mentally stimulating activity. If possible, choose genres such as classic literature or non-fiction over popular fiction, as they both require higher levels of mental activity to process.

A home care provider may also be a valuable resource for seniors—the elder care providers at Avila Home Care provide companionship services that include reading and are also available to drive seniors to the library, book stores or other location to purchase or borrow reading materials. If you or an elderly loved one wishes to take advantage of the benefits of reading, but is unable due to health or mobility issues, contact Avila Home Care today to learn more about the services our caregivers provide.  

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