Reading can be a powerful tool for keeping the aging brain sharp – and it's never too late to start. If you're an older adult who wants to learn more about keeping your brain healthy, or if you're a caregiver for someone over 50, here are four benefits of reading.
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1. Reading Keeps Your Brain Sharp
Your body may feel like it's slowing down in your golden years, but the same isn't true for your mind. A number of studies have shown that older adults who participate in mentally stimulating activities (such as reading books) experience less cognitive decline than those who don't challenge their brains.
What types of activities seem to work best? A study published in 2007 found that reading books improved adults' vocabulary and comprehension more than watching TV did. When you read, you get exposed to a variety of new words and phrases, and vocabulary is one area where older adults typically struggle.
2. It Might Be Easier Than Ever Before
It probably comes as no surprise that most Americans aren't reading as much as they used to. People are spending more time on computers or watching TV than ever before, but technology can also help older adults stay sharp by tackling the challenge of slow reading speed.
Many people over 50 say that it's difficult for them to read because their eyesight isn't what it used to be and they struggle with other sensory issues. Luckily, there are many new e-reading devices that work well for seniors because they increase the font size, decrease background glare and use photo-realistic text, which makes it easier for people to focus.
3. It Keeps You Connected With Others
If you want to stay connected with friends and family, you don't have to rely solely on face-to-face visits. Why not pick up a book club or reading group at the library? You can meet new people and read books that interest you, which are both great ways to maintain social connections.
4. Reading Can Improve Your Sleep
We all know how good bedtime stories are for kids – they help them relax before falling asleep. Well, according to new research, adults can benefit from reading at night too. When researchers asked more than 1,100 college students about their sleeping habits, they found that those who read before bed reported sleeping better than those who watch TV.
Reading in bed stimulates brain activity that makes it easier to fall asleep. Plus, when you're in bed with a good book, there's no chance your mind will start racing and thinking about all the problems you need to tackle tomorrow.
If you're over 50, reading a book might be a challenge. But don't let that stop you from reading. Instead of looking at a novel as an exercise in speed-reading, embrace it as a way to keep your mind sharp and fight off memory loss.
If you've already started reading regularly, tell friends and family about the benefits of keeping your brain active. Share this article with them so they can see why it's worth picking up a book today.