Reading is good for seniors on several levels. It can help prevent dementia, it can help prevent depression, and it also increases our capacity for empathy. So regularly reading high-quality material can benefit both your mental and emotional health.
All reading materials are not created equal. The “wrong” kind of material would be anything that may work against your goals. For example, if you only read your Facebook feed all day, you won’t get the same kinds of benefits. In fact, you may become more depressed if you struggle with comparing yourself to others. The “right” kind of material includes books, newspapers, and magazines. Literary fiction, novels, and educational nonfiction are all excellent choices.
Reading Prevents Dementia
Psychology Today reported on a journal article that was written based on an observation of 300 older adults. They participated in a study to examine the effects of reading on seniors. After the participant’s deaths, their brains were examined for physical signs of dementia. The study concluded:
“Those people who reported that they read, were protected against brain lesions and tangles and self-reported memory decline over the 6-year study. In addition, remaining an avid reader into old age reduced memory decline by more than 30%, compared to engaging in other forms of mental activity. Those who read the most had the fewest physical signs of dementia…”
So even though all forms of mental activity are helpful (Don’t put down your Sudoku puzzle just yet!), reading seems to be one of the most beneficial in maintaining your mental acuity.
Reading Prevents Depression
Reading can also prevent depression. The science on this is not entirely clear, but that’s probably because reading lifts people’s moods due to a variety of different factors.
Readers are more likely to socialize by going to the library, going to bookstores, attending reading groups, and exchanging books with friends.
Some readers feel that books alleviate loneliness, as they start to feel they are friends with the characters.
Similarly, books give readers a window into someone else’s world. When a reader sees a character tackling a problem similar to one they might have, it gives the reader hope and a sense that they aren’t alone in their struggles.
Reading can boost your mood and help you relax, which changes the chemicals in your brain. Reading has even been shown to have an effect similar to meditation.
Reading Increases Empathy
Don’t want to turn into a grump? One of the best benefits of reading is that it increases empathy. However, this benefit is only gleaned from reading literary fiction. Popular fiction and nonfiction books don’t provide the same value.
According to Scientific American, “Literary fiction, by contrast, focuses more on the psychology of characters and their relationships. “Often those characters’ minds are depicted vaguely, without many details, and we’re forced to fill in the gaps to understand their intentions and motivations…This genre prompts the reader to imagine the characters’ introspective dialogues. This psychological awareness carries over into the real world, which is full of complicated individuals whose inner lives are usually difficult to fathom. Although literary fiction tends to be more realistic than popular fiction, the characters disrupt reader expectations, undermining prejudices and stereotypes. They support and teach us values about social behavior, such as the importance of understanding those who are different from ourselves.”
ILA wants to encourage you to read more by making your reading experience more comfortable. That’s why we’ve put reading accessories on sale this week. Check out the Easy Reader Stand, Moshi Elite Neck Pillow, and Posture-Rite Lap Desk on our Sales page today.