Your love for a good story can actually help strengthen your brain.
Reading is a great habit to pick up no matter what age you are. Not only is reading good for the mind, but it’s a fun activity you can use to connect with loved ones in your life who have memory issues.
When looking for ways to support your loved one through cognitive issues, we highly recommend reading with—or to—your loved one.
Benefits of Reading
Create Connections in the Brain
Reading helps strengthen connections in the brain. One study found that reading a novel improved communication across the part of the brain that’s responsible for language. It also showed that reading can be linked to positive changes in the brain’s ability to process sensory information.
Research shows that reading can create neurons (brain cells). Neurons transmit information through the brain and are a key part of how our minds function. More neurons encourage more connections in the brain.
Prevent Cognitive Impairments
Reading can prevent age-related cognitive impairments because it requires more cognitive effort than processing images or videos. Studies show that people who read once a week, or more, are less likely to experience cognitive decline. Additionally, experts believe reading is closely linked to reducing someone’s risk of dementia.
Reduce Your Stress
Like yoga and funny videos, reading can help lower your stress levels. One study found that reading for 30 minutes can reduce the physical and emotional signs of stress almost instantly.
These results are based on the use of “neutral” reading material. Reading the newspaper may not be as relaxing as a love story. When you read material that doesn’t provoke a strong response, you help your mind relax.
While reading may not add decades to your lifespan by itself, reading as a habit has been linked to a 20% reduction in mortality rates. Generally, researchers believe this is because reading has other health benefits that contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
Improve Memory & Concentration
Our brains need to be worked to stay healthy. Reading requires the brain to exercise, helping to improve memory and concentration.
In order to read, your brain needs to be able to recognize and understand the words on the page. Then, your brain has to take that information and create a “mental image” of what you’re reading so you can follow the story. All of this needs to happen within a fraction of a second so you can keep reading your book.
Reading involves your temporal lobe, frontal lobe, and angular and supramarginal gyrus.
The temporal lobe is the part of your brain that’s responsible for recognizing and using words, as well as understanding sounds. The frontal lobe is responsible for speech and language comprehension. The angular and supramarginal gyrus help link different regions of the brain so you can recognize letter shapes and put them together to form words.
With all of these different parts working together, your brain gets stronger every time you read. Because you need to be able to understand, process, and recall information while you read, regularly reading can help improve your concentration and memory.
Great Books to Make Reading a Habit
When you’re just beginning to read, it’s easier to get into a habit when you enjoy what you’re reading. Whether you’re looking for a good book to share, or someone you love is looking for interesting books to help improve their memory, the number of options available can be overwhelming.
- The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
- The Rosie Project
- The Bookshop On The Corner
Great Books for People with Cognitive Impairments
While someone with memory issues may not be able to read full novels, they may still enjoy some easy reading. Reading to someone you love who has a cognitive impairment is a great way to connect with them and they can still enjoy great stories.
There are many reading resources available for those with cognitive issues. You can get books from the library by asking for “high interest, easy readability” that someone with mental impairments can enjoy. Some great books for people with conditions like dementia include:
- What the Wind Showed to Me
- Wishing on a Star
- Through the Seasons | Activity Book
- Living Your Best With Early-Stage Alzheimer’s: An Essential Guide
- Dancing with Elephants
Is It Too Late to Start Reading?
It’s never too late to start reading. If you want to make reading a habit for yourself, or someone you love, try using some of these tips:
- Read a book on a subject you want to learn
- Keep a book in your bag
- Read 1 newspaper article per day
- Get a library card
- Read a book that was made into a movie you liked
When you start reading with a loved one who has a condition like dementia, it’s important to be patient. Start with books that are easy and fun to read. Take turns reading, or read to them, so they can enjoy the story.
If someone you love is in need of memory care or assisted living services, please contact our team to learn more about how we can help you.