Reading a book has profound benefits. We skim and glance at headlines and links online all the time, but the advantages that come from reading a book tend to be greater than those that come from reading articles (yes, even this one). There’s a few reasons that this might be Books are longer and require more focus; they’re more tangible and so engage more of the senses. Whether you’re reading a fiction or non-fiction book, the author is trying to weave some sort of narrative together, in a way that requires more abstract thinking than when you see the narrative played out on a screen. These factors all play into why reading is so beneficial for everyone; in many ways, the advantages of reading are even more important for seniors.

Let’s first look at the mental benefits of reading a book. As we alluded to above, reading requires abstract thinking; you’re taking a series of symbols that, on their own, are meaningless, translating those symbols into sounds and words in your head, and then creating a picture of the world the narrator has created. Letters in words, words in phrases, phrases in paragraphs, on and on; read this Medium article about reading for a vivid, beautiful description of what your mind is doing when you read. Once you’re done, press on to this article in the Guardian about how reading makes you smarter. Books teach you facts, or new words, things you can store in your long-term memory, shoring up what’s known as crystallized intelligence. They also shore up your fluid intelligence, your ability to improvise, to make new leaps in logic and abstract thinking, probably as a result of all the quick processing your brain has to do to construct the worlds the letters represent.

Books also boost your emotional intelligence. When you read a story, and you’re gripped by a narrative, what’s happening? You’re being empathic, plain and simple – though isn’t it bizarre to be empathetic towards a character who isn’t physically present, and who may not have ever existed in our world in the first place? This can play an enormous role in the lives of seniors, for whom social isolation can be a very real problem. When seniors read, it gives them a chance to use social skills even when no one is present, and that can help them feel at ease in the world; that’s to everyone’s advantage. Think of the knowledge and skills and love we lose when seniors aren’t a part of our lives!

The benefits of reading for seniors, then, are an increase in cognitive abilities that may stave off dementia (though the studies that report this have been small), and an increase in emotional intelligence that may help reduce social isolation and loneliness. There’s one obvious problem, though: not all seniors can read the small print that’s found in most books. Fortunately, with modern technology, there’s a number of solutions. Among the best is to purchase an eReader; these devices have a zoom function that allows you to make the letters quite big, so the books are easier to read. There’s also audiobooks, that, while removed from the complete abstraction of the written word, allow you to appreciate a good story even if you can’t read at all. One of the best ways to enjoy reading? Sit and open up a book with your loved one, and read it out loud; they’ll get the benefit of reading, and you’ll get the benefit of their company. Partners for Home offers private home care in Winnipeg, so you’ll be able to enjoy quality time with your loved one at the time that suits you both best. Grab a book, go for a visit, and enjoy each other’s company.

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