As the world has grown more technologically advanced, the appeal of turning simple pages has seemed to fade for many. But even if fewer people are picking up a good book doesn’t make reading any less important, valuable and -- let’s be real -- fun!
There’s no better season to read than the summer. As everything seems to slow down and time frees up, the appeal of finding a comfortable warm spot with some shade with a cold beverage to turn a few pages grows and grows. Whether it’s diving back into a classic or finding something off a recent awards list, treating yourself to a good read is more than just a good way to pass the time.
Reading, especially in our senior years, is an excellent way to remain sharp, train our memory and improve reason and wit. Books often require a bit more thought to process their core messages than a TV show or popular movie, and reading them is an excellent excuse to drive our cognitive skills.
Here’s why you should be reading this summer:
The Benefits of Reading as a Senior
There’s a ton of research out there that suggests reading is a fantastic way to combat cognitive decline (and even delay Alzheimers.) While ideally the best time to start training your brain with reading was when you’re young, there’s no time like the present to discover the love of a good book and start training your brain. Take time to analyze what you’ve read and think about core themes you’ve learned and then compare it to articles others have written. This can be a great mental workout.
Besides giving you a brain boost, reading can make your quality of life a lot better too. Reading is a great tool to combat anxiety and stress, emotions that can have negative health consequences in the long term. Studies suggest that people who read books more frequently are less impulsive and are better at making reasoned decisions, something extremely important for Seniors and younger folk alike.
While there are many more reasons reading can be beneficial as a senior, one reason is very simple and measurable -- it helps you fall asleep and stay well rested. Especially as we spend more time looking at screens, we tend to be staring at a bright light right up until we try to go to bed. This can confuse our brains, making us think it’s still daytime. Reading a chapter or two before nodding off can ensure a deeper, easier sleep, which is extremely important for maintaining good health.
We know that reading is a good idea for Seniors, but where to start? Here’s a list of five books that should make your list before the end of summer:
Summer Reading Recommendations
1 - Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
Michael Ondaatje’s latest book is further testament to his talent. At 75, Ondaatje who authored The English Patient (the movie adaption went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture) creates a compelling tale of mystery and magic as he delves into the protagonists memories of post WWII England. It’s a story steeped in nostalgia and takes a stark look at the realities of a country attempting to raise a new generation in a continent recently battered by a world war.
2 - Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
Arguably Canada’s most esteemed author, Margaret Atwood once again dazzles with this collection of nine short stories, with themes ranging from love and loss to subterfuge and mystery. There’s something in Stone Mattress for everyone, but it’s frequent featuring of mature characters dealing with narratives related to their age makes this book particularly relevant to Seniors.
3 - Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
While the movie was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, the book is arguably an even better account of the true story of five African American women mathematicians, who proved invaluable to NASA in the 60’s in their quest to send a person to the moon. Struggling again racial prejudice and sexism simultaneously, Hidden Figures shows the strength and brilliance of these women set against the backdrop of one of humanity's greatest achievements.
4 - Smarter than you Think by Clive Thompson
For fans of non-fiction, Smarter than you Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better, takes a unique look at modern technology. Where many in the media portray the internet an associated technology as scary and ultimately negative, Clive Thompson delves into how modern tech is having extremely positive impacts on the way we think and communicate with each other. It can be daunting to keep up with the latest technology, but this book can help everyone, especially Seniors, maintain a varied perspective on how the modern age is impacting all our lives.
5 - Milkman by Anna Burns
Winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, Milkman is a story cloaked where the details are sparse, but the story suspenseful. In an unnamed town, with an unnamed protagonist, readers are kept on the edge of their seats as the main character navigates a community ripe with gossip and hearsay about her mysterious encounter with the titular “Milkman” character. For readers who like delving into and solving puzzles, Milkman is a great novel, and one that will certainly provide opportunities to train your brain.
Reading is good for you, plain and simple. It helps maintain memory, is a great way to educate yourself (especially for non-fiction fans) and gives us a break from technology that can sometimes impair our sleep. For seniors, reading is a fantastic way to stay sharp and current and hone our wit.
More than that, it’s also an enjoyable pastime that lets you explore far away places from the comfort of an armchair. With the summer well underway, there’s no better chance to pour a cold beverage and crack a great book. While there’s no shortage to fantastic literature, we hope you enjoy one of our five recommendations and rediscover (or continue discovering) the joy of reading.