Do Old People Read Books? Benefits & Must-Reads For Seniors


Whether you’re looking for a nice gift or want to help a senior out by finding a great activity for them to do, you might wonder, do old people read books?

Older people read books for almost an hour each day. Compared to younger age groups, this is 40 minutes longer than the average of 20 minutes a day. 65+-year-olds spend over 40 minutes reading each day, and 75+-year-olds are the most enthusiastic readers, spending almost an hour reading each day.

Let’s dive deeper into older people’s reading habits, the benefits of reading books at an older age, and which books seniors and elderly people like to read most. Ready? Let’s go!

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Reading Habits Of Older People

According to research by StatistaThe average daily time spent reading by individuals in the United States in 2020 amounted to 0.34 hours or 20.4 minutes. According to the study, adults over the age of 75 were the most avid readers, spending almost an hour reading each day. Meanwhile, those aged between 15 and 19 years read for just 8.4 minutes per day on average.”

As you can see in the chart above, 65+-year-olds and 75+-year-olds spend the most time reading compared to younger people. It sounds logical because, in retirement, you have more time for activities such as reading books and other hobbies. And retirement is also a more relaxing time in people’s lives, giving people the time and space to pick up a great book and enjoy reading.

Many younger people simply don’t have the time or are in the right headspace to enjoy a good book because of work pressure and taking care of a family. 

Also, another research by BLS shows that People age 65 and older also spent the most time reading for personal interest. On the days they read, people age 65 and older read for an average of 1 hour and 47 minutes. They read 24 minutes longer than people ages 15 to 24.” As you can see in the charts below:

This study confirms that retirees love to read things they’re interested in. They don’t need to read books for work or school anymore. They have the control to spend their time how they want to. Knowing what they’re interested in helps find an excellent book for them to read. Later in this article, I share a couple of great must-reads.

Now that we know that seniors love to do book reading. Let’s see what the benefits are for seniors when reading.

Benefits Of Reading For Seniors

Getting older comes with its challenges, both mentally and physically. The mental stimulation you get from reading helps heighten overall brain function and protects your memory and thinking skills, especially as you get older. Now, let’s take a closer look into the benefits of reading.

Improves Cognitive Functioning

According to Cambridge Research: “Reading helps to protect and stimulate cognitive functioning in later life. According to Cambridge Research, frequent reading activities were associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline for older adults at all levels of education in the long term”.

Now, what is cognitive functioning exactly?

“Brain cognitive functions are the mental processes that allow us to receive, select, store, transform, develop, and recover information that we’ve received from external stimuli. This process allows us to understand and relate to the world more effectively,” according to this paper.

Cognitive functioning is vital, especially for older people. It helps them maintain their brain health and helps them stay more independent at an old age. 

Reduce Chances Of Dementia Or Alzheimer’s disease

Seniors who are frequent readers have less chance to develop diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to an article by USA Today, Adults with hobbies that exercise their brains — such as reading, jigsaw puzzles or chess — are 2.50 times less likely to have Alzheimer’s disease, while leisure limited to TV watching may increase the risk, a study says.”

This means you’ve got to use it or lose it. And with brain-challenging activities such as reading you build a reserve of neuronal connections. It can even make your brain work 30 years younger as I go more into depth in my article: Learning Can Be Easy After 60.

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

As you’ve experienced yourself as well, reading a book can be very calming. And this is proven by science too. Reading a book (just 6 minutes) reduces stress levels in the body, slows down the heart rate, and reduces muscle tension. This is what neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis says about reading a book:

“It really doesn’t matter what book you read. By losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book, you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination. This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.”

Improves Memory 

Reading a book is a neural workout. It’s more demanding for the brain than processing images or speech. The mental stimulation the brain gets while reading helps to protect memory, which is especially helpful when you’re getting older. 

Keeps The Mind & Spirit Young

Reading exposes the reader to different people, places, and perspectives. And this is why reading is one of the most effective ways to keep a young, open, and curious mind and spirit. The attitude towards life can change by reading books. This helps older people stay more up to date with current times and gain more wisdom on every aspect of life with every book they read.

Increases Longevity

According to this research, with over 3600 participants, book reading provides a survival advantage among the elderly. 

“Book reading contributed to a survival advantage that was significantly greater than that observed for reading newspapers or magazines. Compared to non-book readers, book readers had a 23-month survival advantage at the point of 80% survival in the unadjusted model.”

Enhances Social Interactions

While you may think that book reading is a solitary activity. It is, of course. But it can lead to more social interactions and enhanced social skills. 

When reading a book, you dive into other people’s mental states, beliefs, and thoughts which helps you empathize with people better in the real world.

And also, book reading leads to more social interactions. People who read regularly like to talk about their books and are often looking for book clubs and discuss the books with like-minded people. And having regular social interactions is one of the most important keys to staying happy in retirement

Better Sleep

Reading also leads to better sleep. And this especially works when you create a bedtime ritual such as reading before bed. As I mentioned earlier, reading slows down the heart rate and makes you feel more relaxed, which ultimately helps with falling asleep and better quality sleep throughout the night.

This trick doesn’t work when you read a book on a screen. Screens keep you awake longer and can disrupt your sleep as well.

Vocabulary Expansion

The more you read, the more words you see and understand, which will expand your vocabulary. Also, the more one expands their vocabulary the easier it is to break away from old thought patterns. It opens new communication lines of reasoning. As you know more words, you create new pathways for new thoughts which stimulates new ideas and ways of thinking. In short, reading makes you more open-minded and less stubborn. Now that can be a benefit for you too if you have to deal with a very stubborn senior ;).

Amazing Must-Reads For Older People

In the good old times, people need to go to a public or local library to find new books to read. Going to a library is still a great pastime activity for older people because being outside and getting socially stimulated helps them stay happy and healthy. But there are now other ways to read books. 

An excellent gift for someone is a Kindle E-reader which gives them access to millions of ebooks and audiobooks. Or you can gift them one of the old-fashioned printed books and must-reads below.

The Nightingale

#1 New York Times Best-Seller and Wall Street Journal Best Book of the Year.

Where the Crawdads Sing

#1 New York Times Best-Seller, soon to be a major motion picture, A Reese’s Book Club Pick and A Business Insider Defining Book of the Decade.

The Lincoln Highway

#1 New York Times Best-Seller and chosen by Oprah Daily, Time, NPR, The Washington Post, and Barack Obama as a Best Book of the Year.

Kirsten Veldman

I'm Kirsten. In 2017, my husband Léon, and I decided to retire from the rat race to travel the world and work and live location independently. In the last couple of years, I wrote over 200+ articles about retirement and did extensive research to help people prepare, enjoy and celebrate retirement in the best way possible.

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