The surprising health benefits of reading in later life

“She read books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.” – Annie Dillard

Thursday 2nd March 2023 was World Book Day and saw the annual celebration of those rather marvellous things we call books. Whether you enjoy a magical adventure with Harry Potter or a flirt with Mills and Boon, have you ever thought about the health benefits of reading – especially in your later years?

Improving memory

Reading is not only a great pastime, but studies have indicated that there are many reading-related benefits for older adults. First and foremost, reading has been shown to improve memory; books exercise your brain by giving you plenty to remember, such as plot and characters, and this is essential in maintaining your short-term recall and retention. Here at Unique Senior Care, we are all for this, as a sharp mind plays a big part in helping people to live independently longer!

Not only does it improve your memory, but studies have suggested that reading – and other brain-challenging activities – can help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, by improving memory circuits. Research indicates that reading builds a reserve of neuronal connections, meaning it will take longer for Alzheimer’s to break them down.

The joy of reading

Reading can also improve general mental health and reduce stress – after all, who doesn’t love getting lost in a good book? Books stimulate imagination and also make wonderful talking points with friends and family, and can therefore help to combat loneliness in older years.

For those with declining sight or a visual impairment there are now many options that will still allow them to enjoy reading, including large print books, e-readers with zoom text, reading lights and magnifiers, or even audio books.

And don’t forget the option of reading aloud to a relative; being read to will make them feel comforted, relaxed and, above all, valued. At Unique Senior Care, reading forms a big part of our Companionship service – our carers and clients have their own little book clubs where we talk about our latest reads each week, and we also read together.

World Book Day 2023

While it is undeniably a focus of World Book Day to promote reading among children, let’s not forget that reading has profound benefits for elderly people, too. Why not use the day to help an elderly loved one reconnect with their love of books? You could dig out a copy of one of their childhood favourites, or find a new book and discover it together.

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