Do you remember watching PSA commercials for the national Reading is Fundamental literacy program – either as a child or as a parent? The spots date back to the late 1960s, with many featuring entertainment and sports celebrities like Ed Asner, Shaq and LeVar Burton. (You may have read that Burton’s fan base, inspired by the actor’s “reading nerd” ways, created a successful petition that landed Burton the role of celebrity guest host of Jeopardy this month.) Reading is Fundamental has encouraged generations of children to begin reading early and to make it a lifelong habit, as it is likely that good readers become better learners.
But as many adults experience through their 30s-50s, reading for pleasure and lifelong learning can wind up on the back burner as career and family demands take priority. It’s not until older adults hit semi- or full retirement that they have a new opportunity to dive back into reading. A 2015 study by Pew Research Center found that 69 percent of seniors said they had read at least one book in the past 12 months.
The takeaway for older adults is that becoming a bookworm while aging in place is one of the best things you can do to boost cognitive health. Research by the American Academy of Neurology points to a lower rate of cognitive decline in dementia patients who were avid readers. A study by the University of Toronto found that reading can promote an increased tolerance for uncertainty—a useful personal skill to have during this time of pandemic. Studies show that the habit of reading by adults aged 50 and older leads to improved memory, better decision-making abilities and more uninterrupted sleep cycles.
Reading also is a great hobby for maintaining senior mental health and reducing stress, as it is a relaxing pursuit but it also can be turned into a social activity. To become a social bookworm, consider joining an online reading club (your local library may offer one) or creating one of your own with friends. You and your fellow book lovers can discuss plot points and character development via FaceTime, GoogleDuo or Zoom.
Now what to read? So much time, so many book lists! Click on the following lists to get a few ideas on interesting and inspiring reads this summer and fall:
- AARP list: 7 New Beach Books on Deck for Summer
- CBS News list: 12 Perfect Summer Beach Reads for 2021
- The Bill Gates list: 5 Ideas for Summer Reading
- Oprah’s Book Club: The Complete List
- The Town and Country List: The Must-Read Books of Summer 2021
And here are a few suggestions from our friendly and helpful senior care advisors at Amada Senior Care:
No Time Like the Future by Michael J. Fox – The actor bravely discusses the realities of facing increasing health issues related to Parkinson’s disease as he grows older. He realized he entered a new stage of the disease when he broke his arm severely from an accidental fall at home. The progressive condition has him contemplating getting more Parkinson’s help at home. Fox also is suffering cognitive decline related to Parkinson’s, which may force him to retire from acting forever.
You’re Only Old Once!: A Book for Obsolete Children by Dr. Seuss – This book reminds us that reading not only is fundamental but fun, and that getting older can be as fun as you make it out to be. Whether you are newly retired, an old soul or a kid at heart, this picture book is just what the doctor ordered for laughing at what it is to be a human on the senior journey.
Is There Any Ice Cream?: Surviving the Challenges of Caregiving for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s, Anxiety and COPD by Judith Allen Shone – The author had to jump into the role of caregiving for a family member with Alzheimer’s and learned she is in good company. An estimated 5.7 million Americans are living with some form of memory loss, and many family caregivers – often a spouse – took on the task of Alzheimer’s home care with little warning or training. Shone chronicles her caregiving journey with humor and delivers greats insight into the many daunting challenges and emotional chaos she experienced while caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, COPD, cancer, vascular dementia, and anxiety.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman – The fact that many popular TV crime series have starred mature sleuths – think Columbo, Jessica Fletcher, Lennie Briscoe, et al. – says you’re never too old to play detective. Set in a retirement village, four septuagenarians who are unlikely friends – start meeting weekly to discuss unsolved crimes. Then a local developer is found dead, and a mysterious photograph was left next to the body. The members of the newly minted Thursday Murder Club have their first live case and as bodies start piling up, they must pull all the tricks from their sleeves to catch a killer.
The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir by Jenifer Lewis – Known most recently for her matriarch role on the hit sitcom black-ish, Lewis shares her trials and tribulations as a Midwestern girl from poverty who followed her dream to becoming a mega-star. Her multiple talents earned her starring roles on Broadway and led her to Hollywood and parts on hit sitcoms like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Friends. Her iconic role as Mama in the cult movie favorite Jackie’s Back cemented her status as “Mother of Black Hollywood” to then-freshman actors Taraji P. Henson, Whitney Houston, and Tupac Shukar. Her no-hold-barred memoir includes her battle to achieve wellness for bipolar disorder and sex addiction. As she bares her soul and shares her insights, she impresses on all these hard-earned words of advice: “Love yourself so that love will not be a stranger when it comes.”
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder – This wry and funny book was the inspiration for the movie starring Frances McDormand, who won the best actress award at the Academy Awards this year – while the film took Best Picture and Chloé Zhao won Best Director honors. It reveals the dark underbelly of the U.S. economy and the precarious future awaiting many older Americans who are retirement-age and should be enjoying their Golden Years. Yet the film also celebrates their resilience and creativity, and the fact that they have not given up hope even as they navigate a nomad’s existence.
If I Die Before I Wake: A Caregiver’s Journey by Eli Shaw – This book was written by Bob Kershaw, who said he used a pseudonym to protect the privacy of families mentioned. Their stories are part of his 60-year journey as a caregiver, beginning at age 10 when he befriended a young neighbor who had Down’s syndrome. He became a mentor to the boy and protected him from bullies. When he was just 19, Kershaw founded Camp Happiness, a camp for children with disabilities and it is still going strong. He started writing the book in the 1990s after losing his father, best friend and a neighbor all died within a three-month span. After discovering there were few books about grieving or the caregiving process, Kershaw decided he needed to write something down to leave behind as a legacy. He also wanted to offer support for caregivers of elderly parents. “Most caregivers heap everything on themselves and don’t talk about their feelings,” Kershaw told The White River Valley Herald in a 2019 interview.
“The Cognitive Benefits of Reading as You Grow Older” was written by Michelle Flores, Amada blog contributor.