305 West End Assisted Living Blog

Brain Benefits of Reading for Older Adults

Senior man sitting on sofa reading a book.

Many of us find reading pleasurable, but the benefits of reading can go beyond an enjoyable afternoon. From improved social skills to reduced stress to better cognitive health, getting lost in a book can bring a host of positive outcomes. 

Reading and Cognitive Health

Similar to how exercise can improve your muscular strength, regularly exercising your brain can improve cognitive health and memory. 

One study found that older adults who regularly read were less likely to experience cognitive decline than those who didn’t read as often. Cognitive decline includes everyday forgetfulness, as well as the inability to concentrate. That means reading isn’t just good for long-term health, but can also improve your memory in day-to-day life.

Additionally, people who have developed lifelong habits of mentally stimulating activities (like reading) were less likely to develop some of the biomarkers that are found in people with dementia. 

Which is Better: Reading on Paper or Screens?

The simple answer is to read whichever way you prefer. If you’re reading from a tablet or e-reader, look for features to make it easier, such as enlarged text or a brighter screen. 

Reading and Stress Reduction

Whether your reading material of choice is a mystery with plot twists and turns, a cooking magazine, or a presidential biography, reading something you enjoy has been proven to reduce stress. One small study suggests that reading for just 30 minutes a day could be as effective as doing yoga for stress reduction. 

Of course, the key is to choose something you enjoy. So find a quiet nook, settle down with your favorite book or magazine, and read your way to less stress. A habit of reading before bed can even settle your mind and set the stage for a good night of sleep. 

Related article: Simple self-care ideas to try >>

Reading and Lifelong Learning

A simple way to continue learning long after you’ve earned your degrees is to keep reading.

The concept of being well-read isn’t clearly defined, but most people agree that it means regularly reading books on a variety of topics and from a variety of viewpoints. And that, in turn, can help you think about the world from a different perspective — not to mention have something interesting to talk about at social gatherings. And speaking of gatherings...

Reading and Social Connection

Although reading is often a solitary endeavor, it may make you better at connecting with other people.

In one study, those who read literary fiction showed an improved ability to identify emotions and thoughts of other people than those who didn’t read, or those who read other genres. Still, if literary fiction isn’t your cup of tea, reading can boost your social ability by exposing you to other points of view and ideas. 

In a more concrete sense, reading can also open up opportunities for meeting and interacting with others through book clubs. Whether they’re formal or informal, in-person or virtual, book clubs can help you stay engaged in the community, meet new people, and strengthen friendships.

Related article: Virtual book clubs to join >>

More Health and Wellness Resources

If you enjoyed this article, you might also be interested in reading about these five healthy eateries on the Upper West Side, or these tips on how to improve the quality of your sleep.

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