Reading is a part of a healthy lifestyle

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The month of February is drawing to a close and only three more weeks of “winter” remain. Based on some of the nasty tricks Mother Nature likes to play on us, I am not deluding myself into thinking Spring will burst forth on the 21st of March! As a final topic for this month, I am going to take us away to Manitoba where it is “I Love to Read” month. Reading is part of a healthy lifestyle and it can be particularly important for seniors for the following reasons.

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· Reading improves and maintains your ability to concentrate and focus. While reading newspapers and magazines are helpful, reading a book forces you to concentrate and like a muscle, the more you exercise your concentration skills, the stronger they get.

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· Reading builds self-esteem. The more you read, the more you know, and the more you gain confidence. You can start an interesting conversation, add to a discussion, and share your knowledge. You feel better about yourself and your self-esteem increases proportionately.

· Reading improves your memory. A good book requires you to remember characters, details, facts, and plot lines. The more you exercise your memory, the stronger it stays.

· A book allows you to expand your horizons and visit other countries and cultures even though you may be physically or financially unable to do so. You gain an insight into other customs, lifestyles, climate and even tourist attractions. You may not have visited a country personally, but you can certainly join in a conversation and add some interesting tidbits of information.

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· Reading reduces boredom. If you are feeling isolated and lacking mental stimulation, there is nothing like a good book to allow you to live vicariously through an exciting hero or heroine.

· The experts did not mention this benefit, but I believe a good book can help beat the “winter blues”. What a wonderful way to pass those cold, dreary, blustery winter afternoons than with a cozy chair, a cup of hot chocolate, and a good book!

Some research projects extol the virtue of reading as a means of staving off dementia and maintaining your cognitive abilities. How reading can enhance a senior’s life is really a personal decision, but everyone knows – it cannot hurt.

Now the bad news – when people age they sometimes develop ailments such as poor eyesight, strokes, dementia, dyslexia, or other diseases that impair their ability to read. The desire to read might remain, but the effects of ageing can remove the ability. As a caregiver, family member, or friend, this can be your opportunity to continue to expand your loved one’s horizons. Read to them. What a stimulating way to spend an afternoon or spice up a visit in a care facility. Choose a book of interest to both of you and read away. Time flies and there are no longer the awkward silences to contend with. A great time can be had by all!

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Joseph Addison stated it well – “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body”.

And finally for the next best thing to exercise – your laugh! Which book do you like to read while eating breakfast? Much Ado About Muffin! Is there a difference between a boring person and a boring book? You can shut the book up. Why did Shakespeare always write with a pen? Pencils were confusing to him. 2B or not 2B?

Information in this column is compiled by Shell-Lee Wert, CCSH, 470 Dundas Street East, Unit 63, Belleville, K8N 1G1. Please visit our website at or email me at [email protected], or call 613-969-0130 or 613-396-6591 for information and assistance. Community Care is a proud United Way member agency. Funding in part from Ontario Health East.

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