Reading Is Good for Your Brain
"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body." -Sir Richard Steele
Dan, 76, finds himself sitting on the couch watching TV almost every night. He doesn't seem to be as interested in the world around him as he once was, and feels sluggish.
An avid reader, Amy, 80, has developed macular degeneration, and has trouble making out the print of her beloved collection of books.
Living on a fixed income, Martha, 66, is looking for an inexpensive form or entertainment, and a way to meet people with similar interests.
You may have heard the term "lifelong learning." Though learning begins when we are children, education is truly a never-ending process—and reading is an important part of learning for everyone. Reading not only keeps us informed about the world around us, but also provides intellectual stimulation and helps keep us mentally sharp.
Reading offers benefits not found in more "passive" media. It gives the brain a much better workout than does watching television. When we watch TV, we take in the information in a passive way. But reading allows the mind to:
Reading about a subject provides far more comprehensive information than watching TV. And we are in more control—we can skim over portions that interest us less, move backwards and forwards, re-read, savor.
Reading helps keep us oriented and engaged. Science, history, biography, self-help-our picture of our world and the world around us is "filled in" a little more with each book we read.
We don't just read because it's good for our brains, of course! For many people, there is no greater pleasure than to curl up with a good book. Reading lets us travel to anywhere in the world and in time without leaving the comfort of our own chair. We can visit a fantasy realm with JRR Tolkien, or the American West with Louis L'Amour, or solve a treacherous mystery with Agatha Christie. Romance fans travel to exotic locales with their heroes and heroines. The Harry Potter books are popular with readers of every age. When we read, we can experience all sort of adventures without even getting our feet wet!
Reading can also be a great way to visit with friends—or to make new ones. What better way to get lively conversation going than to have people with interests in common read and discuss books, magazines or the newspaper? Consider joining a book group—or starting one. And don't forget that when grandchildren visit, they may love to have you read aloud to them. Then have them demonstrate their own reading skills. Or join a volunteer "read aloud" program in a local school or library.
Can't Decide What To Read?
Rereading an old favorite book can be like visiting an old friend. Or try a new type of book. If you enjoyed a book by a certain author, try others by the same writer. Ask a friend for recommendations. Check out book reviews in the local newspaper or on the Internet. And some online bookstores, such as Amazon.com, feature reading lists shared by others. Enter the name of a favorite book—and see what others who like it are also reading.
Have You Investigated Your Local Public Library Lately?
You may be surprised at the great selection of books. And most libraries now feature websites with an online card catalog, where you can find books, look at suggestions, and put books on reserve. The Seattle Public Library online system even lets you manage your own reserve books. If it looks like too many of your reserve books are going to arrive at the same time or when you are going to be out of town, you can suspend the hold online until a later date, arranging for the book to arrive when you have more time.
Is Sight Impairment Making Reading Difficult or Impossible for You or a Friend?
As we reach our mid-sixties and beyond, almost every one of us will have at least some degree of sight impairment. Reduced ability to focus and related conditions may cause difficulty in reading standard-sized print. But this need not prevent older adults from enjoying a good book. Large-print books, magnifiers, books on tape, or read-aloud programs are all good alternatives. Ask your librarian for suggestions.
For more "Lifelong Reading" resources, see "Links You Can Use" in this issue of Seniors Digest!
© 2006 Caresource Healthcare Communications