There’s nothing like snuggling up with a good book. Being transported into unfamiliar worlds. Meeting unique and compelling characters. Traversing every unexpected twist and turn of the plot. Reading’s great fun and it’s good for you.
That’s what we tell children when encouraging them to pick up the habit. And it’s what we should continually remind ourselves as we age. Reading’s still good for you.
The Benefits of Reading
Seniors who read enjoy much more than just a good story. Scientific studies identified a number of positive benefits of reading, including improved memory retention, sharper decision-making skills, stress reduction, better sleep, and even the delayed onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Unfortunately, as we age physical limitations can make reading harder. Happily, there are some simple ways to overcome these obstacles. E-reading devices with back-lit screens and adjustable font sizes are useful for seniors with vision problems, as well as for those suffering from arthritis and other challenges to dexterity.
For older adults who may not be comfortable with technology, adaptive methods — such as large print books, reading lights, magnifiers, book holders, and audio books — can ease the reading process.
Read with Others
Book clubs are a great way to encourage the reading habit and get the benefits of socialization too. Since most book clubs give participants a turn to choose a book, joining a book club is a great way to explore different genres, and maybe even discover a new favorite.
More than a reading group, book clubs also provide a great chance for seniors to socialize, make new friends, stay current on social events, and more. Book clubs for seniors fight social isolation and loneliness, providing a built-in group and a topic of conversation for the group. Social isolation has been associated with a higher risk of depression and even linked to an increased risk of dementia.
Of course, finding the right reading material can directly influence your desire to read. Here are 10 books to suggest to your book club or enjoy on your own.
“The Handmaid’s Tale”
by Margaret Atwood
Set in a futuristic dystopia, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is set in an age of declining births where a totalitarian state has overthrown the United States government. Exploring a range of themes including a woman’s role in society, women’s rights, the role of childbearing in society, the role of religion in society, and government’s role in society, there is sure to be a lively discussion following this read. It’s also a film, so when you’re done reading, you can watch the movie.
by Kristin Hannah
This World War II page-turner features two sisters living in France when the Nazi’s invade. The sisters respond in different ways to the occupation with one ultimately joining the Resistance and putting her life on the line for freedom. A popular book for all generations, “The Nightingale” is a must-read for anyone who loves historical fiction and cheers for the underdog.
“A Man Called Ove”
by Frederick Backman.
This best-selling novel features a lonely and sad old man who hides behind a grumpy exterior, leading his neighbors to call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but it all changes when chatty young neighbors with young children move next door to him. At times funny and at other times heartbreaking, “A Man Called Ove” explores the power of intergenerational friendship and makes us want to love our neighbors a little bit better. It’s also a film, so when you’re done reading, you can watch the movie.
by Kathryn Stockett
Exploring an era that will be familiar to most seniors, “The Help” is a story of African-American women in the South, the white women they worked for, and the children they helped raise. Hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time, “The Help” showcases cultural and socioeconomic differences in 1962 America but is truly a timeless story about the rules we follow and the ones we refuse to follow.
“I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban”
By Malala Yousafzai
The inspiring true story of Malala Yousafzai. On October 9, 2012, she was shot by the Taliban for forcing her right to an education. Her miraculous recovery has taken her from her remote village in Pakistan to the United Nations, and at the age of 16, she has become the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
“When Breath Becomes Air”
by Paul Kalanithi
Author Paul Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon who died from lung cancer while working on this book. Diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, he goes from a doctor treating the dying to the one being treated and struggling to live. Chronicling his transformation from a medical student to exploring questions of life and death, this exquisite memoir is an unforgettable and life-affirming reflection on what it means to truly live.
“Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand”
by Helen Simonson.
Set in England’s countryside, this book features a retired British army officer and a Pakistani shopkeeper. They’re drawn together and over time, fall in love. However, the challenges from culture and tradition, akin to Romeo and Juliet, make it a compelling read.
“The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules”
by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg.
This book is about a group of seniors who are fed up with early bedtimes and soft foods and decide to reclaim their independence by committing a robbery. It’s a comedy of errors that keeps you turning pages until the very end.
“Prime of Life”
by P.D. Bekendam.
For anyone who likes unexpected storylines, this book is about a doctor who leaves his esteemed career behind to become a janitor at a retirement community. It’s filled with humor and quirky characters.
At Essex Meadows, we not only do have book clubs and a well-stocked library, but we also have college-level seminars as well as other social activities for seniors. Check out our wellness page to learn more.