Benefits of Reading for Seniors

A chapter a day keeps the doctor away, or at least for those who read on a regular basis. A study done by the University of Michigan found that those who read 3.5 hours a week showed a 23-month “survival advantage.”

The study took place over 12 years and focused on three groups of people over the age of 50. It looked at those who don’t read books, those who read up to 3.5 hours a week and people who read more hours per week. The study found that those who read more than 3.5 hours per week lived nearly two years longer than those who did not read at all.

In addition to traditional novels, the study also measured people’s time reading magazines and newspapers. This group of people also lived longer but not as long as book readers.

“Previous research indicates that cognitive engagement required for reading can improve vocabulary, reasoning, concentration and critical thinking skills,” said Avni Bavishi, a research assistant. “All of these measures have been linked to survival in other studies.”

Though reading does not trump existing health issues, it does stimulate the brain which has also found to slow the onset of dementia and improves overall memory. Other health benefits include reducing stress and improving sleep and concentration.

Research done by Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of people 65 years and older reported having read at least one book in the past 12 months. The typical senior reads about three books a year which is a step from the rest who don’t read at all.

Studies are needed to determine if there’s a similar benefit to reading e-books or listening to audiobooks and whether the genre of book makes a difference but for now, continuing to read the morning paper or a favourite book can provide more benefits than none.

What does your loved one prefer to read: books, newspaper or magazines or nothing at all? Share with us in the comments and let us know if you’ll consider introducing more reading into yours or their lives!

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