Out of all the healthy habits that anyone can develop—especially seniors—reading is often overlooked unless the person has a natural affinity towards it. The thing about reading is that it actually improves many areas of our lives, even seemingly unrelated ones such as sleeping habits.
When discussing the benefits of reading for seniors, the focus is often on how it can help reduce or minimize the effects of dementia. And while this is certainly true, it goes much deeper than that. There are several other mental health benefits that reading can give.
Benefits of Reading for Mental Health in Seniors
It’s estimated that around 6 million Americans over 65 are suffering from clinical depression. What’s worse is that it’s likely that only 10% of these seniors will get the help they need.
Reading is not a magic cure for depression, nor is depression the only factor in our mental health, but there are mental health benefits. Here are some ways that reading can positively affect a senior citizen’s mental health.
Get More Rest
Our bodies and our brains need sleep, period. And if we’re not getting enough, our mental health is one of the first things to suffer.
Part of getting a good sleep is creating a bedtime ritual, and reading is a great way to add to that routine. Another thing about reading is that it helps relax your mind, which can help improve the overall quality of your sleep.
It doesn’t take a scientific study for us to realize that stress affects our mental health negatively. But we’ve discovered that reading can reduce these stress levels. A study conducted at the University of Sussex found that simply reading for six minutes significantly reduced the subjects’ heart rates, muscle tension, and stress levels.
Assists in Focus
Whether you’re reading a biography of a real person or being transported to a fictional world, reading helps sharpen your focus. This can be especially beneficial to an aging adult because the increased focus helps stimulate brain activity and can help strengthen their memory. All these things tie into a person’s overall mental health.
Slows Cognitive Decline
There is evidence that suggests reading regularly can slow cognitive decline because of the way it helps preserve memory and essentially gives the brain a workout. Dementia and Alzheimer’s can severely impact an aging adult’s mental health because they often realize something is happening and feel helpless to stop it.
Sometimes the worst thing to combat when getting older is the loneliness and depression that often accompanies it. For some, diving into a sprawling fictional world can help combat loneliness.
Reading shouldn’t replace real relationships. However, if the options for socializing are limited, a good story can help.
Getting the Most Out of Reading
There isn’t much to it other than cracking open a good book and diving in. However, you can do a few things to get the most out of your reading time.
Reading Out Loud
If memory improvement is a primary focus when reading, reading aloud may be a good idea. There is evidence that suggests reading out loud helps improve recall of the materials being read. This improved recall is part of strengthening your brain’s ability to remember other things.
There’s nothing wrong with curling up by yourself with a cup of tea and reading a good book. However, when you’re part of a book club, this does a couple of things:
- Gives you a chance to engage with the book on a deeper level by asking and answering questions about it. In turn, this helps improve memory and analytical thinking.
- Book clubs are also a great way to socialize and build relationships with other community members.
This one isn’t for everyone. Sometimes, you like what you like, and that’s all you want to read. However, there is some benefit to reading across different genres or types of writing. By reading new things, you’re causing your brain to think in ways that it may not usually think.
For example, maybe your preference is reading a good old western novel. Adding a non-fiction book into the mix would be an excellent way to flex those brain muscles.
Support for Your Loved Ones
Call today and book a tour with the helpful staff of All American Assisted Living in Londonderry. They are available to answer any questions you have about the support you or a loved one can expect to receive as a community resident.