Reading a book is one of life’s simple pleasures. In a world of omnipresent screens, it’s easy to forget the delight of curling up with a good book.
It’s also easy to overlook the many benefits that come from the act of reading.
Stressed? Reading can chill you out. Worried that your memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be? Reading can help with that. Concerned about Alzheimer’s disease? Reading can reduce the risk and effects. Not sleeping well? Reading can help you sleep better.
Long known to stimulate brain activity and improve overall mental health, the benefits of reading extend even further:
- A Work-out For Your Brain
- Boost Analytical Thinking
- Sharpen Your Focus
- Sleep Better
- Reduce Stress
- Live Longer
With World Book Day around the corner on April 23rd, we encourage everyone to crack open a new title or dust off an old favourite. Dig out your reading glasses and find out how a chapter a day can improve your life.
A Workout for Your Brain
The English writer Joseph Addison once said that “reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” As the imagination weaves through the details of a story, the brain’s neural networks are strengthened, much in the way muscles are strengthen by an intense workout.
A beloved pastime for people of any age, the cognitive benefits of reading increase post-retirement. Research shows that reading helps improve capabilities such as memory, cognition, and attention span, especially in seniors. By strengthening memory retention, reading can actually slow the degenerative process of dementia and Alzheimer’s by keeping the mind limber.
Boost Analytical Thinking
Being actively engaged in what you’re reading allows you to ask questions, view different perspectives, identify patterns, and make connections. Known to peak in middle age, analytical, or critical, thinking then starts to decline. Luckily, it can be improved by reading – whether you prefer non-fiction, poetry, or prose doesn’t matter. They will all get your analytical thinking juices flowing.
Sharpen Your Focus
Whether the story takes place in a faraway country or distant time, an exciting narrative pulls the reader in. Reading requires seniors to focus, use their imaginations, and remember the details of the unfolding story. All of this helps stimulate brainwave activity while maintaining and even improving memory.
Creating a bedtime ritual, such as reading, signals to the body that it is time for sleep. Reading induces sleep better than falling asleep in front of electronic devices, which has been proven to disrupt rest.
Once they started reading a book, it took only six minutes for participants in a University of Sussex study to relax both muscle tension and heart rate. More than merely a great distraction, reading can help dissolve stress and tension by as much as 68%, and it works faster than other relaxation methods such as listening to music, going for a walk or having a cup of tea. Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation.
Attention bibliophiles! Research provides us with yet another great reason to burrow our noses in a book: It might help us live longer lives.
A Yale study showed that reading for 3 ½ hours each week extends your life by 23 months. Overall, adults who read books survived almost 2 years longer over the 12-year follow-up than non-book readers. While adults who reported reading magazines and newspapers also showed increased survival over non-readers, the effect was much less than with book reading.
Why You Should Read This Out Loud
As if sitting in the hushed confines of a library, most of us silently savour the words inside our minds. Reading out loud is largely reserved for bedtime stories and performances. But a growing body of research suggests that we may be missing out.
Far from being a rare or bygone activity, many of us intuitively read aloud as a convenient tool for making sense of the written word and are just not aware of it.
Enter Colin MacLeod, a psychologist at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, who has extensively researched the impact of reading aloud on memory. He and his team have shown that people consistently remember words and text better if they read them aloud than if they read them silently. This is because speaking text aloud helps to get words into long-term memory.
This “production effect” can be used therapeutically with older adults. At All Seniors Care, intergenerational programs connect seniors and younger people through storytelling and volunteers help isolated seniors by reading aloud to them.
Book Clubs Are Great Ways to Stay Social
As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said: “That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”
Reading doesn’t have to be a solitary endeavour, and seniors living in a retirement residence can share their love of books with their neighbours and friends. If your parent or loved one needs a little bit of coaxing to make new friends, why not help them form a book club.
Fighting loneliness and social isolation is important because it will reduce the risk of dementia as well as depression, and book clubs are fantastic ways to get seniors reading and sharing their love of stories. Whether the book club meets weekly or monthly, in person or over Zoom, seniors have the chance to mingle with people who share their interests. Book clubs help fight social isolation and immediately provide less talkative people with a common topic for conversation.
World Book Day at ASC
In celebration of World Book Day, help motivate the senior in your life to pick up a book or start up a book club with like-minded friends.
At All Seniors Care, we feel that there is one activity seniors can enjoy, anytime, anyplace — the joy of reading. If you have an aging parent or loved one living at one of our All Seniors Care senior communities, or are considering senior care living in Whitby for your parent or loved one, we not only offer comfortable private apartments with amenities such as world-class meal preparation, but we also encourage our residents to keep active both physically and mentally.
At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a book – that string of confused, alien ciphers — shivered into meaning. Words spoke to you, gave up their secrets; at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader.
– From A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel