Pacifica Senior Living Blog

Can Reading Prevent Alzheimers? 8 Benefits of Reading for Seniors

Apr 28, 2023 1:42:25 PM / by Carly Dodd, Pacifica Senior Living

Reading is a wonderful pastime that can have a wide range of benefits for both intellectual and emotional health. Between learning about new information with nonfiction books or escaping to new worlds with adventurous fantasy novels, there are so many benefits to diving into a good book.

Studies have shown the importance of reading as it can help keep brains sharp, improve memory, reduce stress, and help us get a good and restful sleep. Reading helps to strengthen our brains, and can be especially helpful for seniors or older adults to keep their minds active as they age.

As we get older, our brains slow down and tend to be less responsive. Keeping brains active can help keep this connection strong, and reduce cognitive decline. In some cases, reading has even been thought to help slow the onset of dementia. Here are 8 great benefits of reading books:

  1. It Can Boost Brain Power and Keep your Mind Sharp

    Reading is one of the best ways to learn and expand your mind, and is extremely useful for kids of a young age as they learn and develop. But even later in life, reading can continue to boost your brain connectivity and cognitive function.

    Reading can both make you smarter in the sense of giving you new things to learn about, but it also keeps your brain active and sharp in the same way that exercise helps keep your body healthy. Great books can help you expand your critical thinking skills, improve problem solving and keeps your brain active.

  2.  Reading Can Help You Focus

    Reading takes concentration and attention - often for extended periods of time. In order to understand what you are reading, you need to focus on the words and context, which helps improve your overall ability to focus. Regular reading can improve your ability to focus and concentrate over time.

  3. It Can Improve Memory and May Help Delay Dementia. 

    Keeping your brain active is a great way to improve your memory. Engaging your brain has been shown to help delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Reading, playing games, or working on puzzles are all great ways to exercise mental stimulation. Inactivity is the worst possible thing for a mind prone to dementia. Engaging in just 15-30 minutes of reading each day can help keep your mind sharp and active.

    Alzheimer’s Researcher in the UK, Dr. Katy Stubbs stated “Dementia isn’t an inevitable part of ageing and evidence suggests that keeping the brain active throughout life may help boost cognitive reserve, a kind of resilience that allows our brains to resist damage for longer as we age.”

    An article by Gary Stix from Scientific American had similar findings: “the very act of reading or writing—largely apart from any formal education—may help protect against the forgetfulness of dementia.”

    Literacy, and the act of reading has been linked more and more with a decrease in or delay of dementia - including Alzheimers. One of the most in-depth studies, conducted by Jennifer J. Manly et. al, shows signs that illiterate individuals developed dementia at an earlier age than participants that were literate, indicating a connection between reading and a delay in cognitive decline.
  4. Reading is Great for Emotional Intelligence

    Reading is not only good for your mind, but also for your emotions. Reading fiction books especially is a great way to learn empathy, and understand other peoples (or other character’s) mind sets and emotions. Understanding what other people are thinking and feeling is a great way to help expand your emotional intelligence and practice empathy, lessons you can take into your everyday life.

  5. It Improves Literacy and Vocabulary

    Of course one of the more known benefits of reading is literacy and vocabulary. Books are one of the most common ways we learn new words, phrases or sayings, and reading a lot, and a lot of different types of books can help us expand our vocabulary and better express ourselves and improve writing skills and communication skills too.

  6. Reading Can Be Motivational

    Reading can be a great motivator. Whether you read fantasy stories with heroes or fiction about people overcoming hardships in their lives, reading other stories can help you relate to your own life, and find motivation and strength. This could be simply having a positive mindset, trying something new, taking on a new challenge, or  overcoming something in your life. 

  7. It Can Help Reduce Stress

    Reading can help you lower stress levels, by taking you away from your own worries of daily life, allowing your mind to focus on something else - whether that means falling into a fictional story or learning something new. Reading can have real health benefits such as lowering your heart rate and reducing blood pressure. 

    In terms of mental health and overall wellness, the benefits of reading books are incredible - no matter if you love literary fiction or self-help books. The reading experience is more important than the subject itself when it comes to stress management.

  8. Reading Can Improve Your Sleep

    Reading before bed is a great way to help you sleep. Establishing reading habits in the evening can help you relax, but it is also a great alternative to looking at a screen before bed. Scrolling on phones or tablets have been shown to keep you more awake and interfere with your sleep quality, so switching to a book or magazine at bedtime is a great way to ease into a more relaxed state of mind. 

    Many of our communities have in-house libraries or reading-based activities to help promote the many benefits of reading for our residents. You can start reading on your own, or join a book club in your community. There are lots of ways to get the positive effects of reading, and integrate reading time into your day.

    Learn more about opportunities in your community, from book clubs to partnerships with local libraries, and get reading!

Tags: Health and Wellness