How reading can improve the health and happiness of seniors

Posted: 3/11/2019 8:00 AM by Interim HealthCare

If you or an aging parent loves reading, you might be happy to know that bibliophilia — the love of books — may help people live longer and stay sharper.

In one study of more than 3,600 people over age 50, researchers at Yale University School of Public Health found that individuals who regularly read books lived almost two years longer on average than those who didn’t read at all. And the amount of reading that gave book readers a "significant survival advantage" wasn’t that much — as little as a half-hour per day.

Other research has found that engaging in intellectually stimulating activities such as reading is associated with better cognitive function later in life and could potentially lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Since getting lost in a good book distracts us from reality and engages the imagination, reading can also be an effective stress reducer. One study from the UK found that it slows heart rate and even eases muscle tension.

Try these tips to cash in on the anti-aging, brain-boosting, stress-relieving benefits of reading:

Focus on books, not periodicals. The Yale study found that reading books was more beneficial to longevity than reading magazines or newspapers.

Favor books on paper. Reading comprehension seems to be better when books are printed on paper versus an electronic screen. Plus, for folks who like to read before bed, paper is preferable, since ereaders emit light that can interfere with sleep. For those with impaired eyesight, however, a tablet or ereader may be a good choice since most reading apps allow you to adjust the text size and spacing between lines.

Don’t discount audiobooks. People who can’t see well enough to read or who can’t hold a book or ebook can still enjoy audiobooks. A popular way to access a seemingly unlimited supply of audiobooks is by subscribing to a service like Audible. You can listen on a smartphone, tablet, computer or iPod. There also are ways to listen for free, such as by borrowing books on tape or CD from the library (even digital downloads). Or check out LibriVox, which offers free public domain audiobooks read by volunteers.

Broaden your reading horizons. To fall in love with reading, you first have to find books that will captivate you. Check out book reviews and suggestions on Amazon or Goodreads. If you know one book you like, you can browse for similar books — or try something completely different. Check the library’s “recommended reading” shelf. Goodreads even has a list of books specifically for senior citizens.

Find (or start) a book club. You can find one that’s open to new members at the local library, community bookstore, senior center or even online. Or gather a few friends who would be interested in meeting regularly to discuss books the group reads together. Book clubs provide an extra benefit beyond those of reading: social interaction. Research suggests that staying social later in life can help stave off cognitive decline.

Searching for more ways to improve Mom or Dad's health? 

Home care workers offer more than medical assistance. They can help with activities and encourage your loved one to participate in fun and beneficial hobbies like reading. At Interim HealthCare, our home care workers are passionate, experienced professionals who are committed to caring for your senior loved ones. Learn more about our services and contact your local branch here.