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The link between reading and longevity


Reading is a great way to stay sharp. A new study from researchers at the Yale School of Public Health shows that reading novels increases longevity by up to two years.

The National Health and Retirement Study consisted of 3,635 people over 50 years of age. The results indicated that book readers lived longer than non-book-readers by some 23 months.

Although there is no definite explanation as to why reading contributes to a longer life, Yale researchers explain that reading keeps the brain active and stimulates an emotional connection to others. It’s likely that the combination of these two factors leads to increased longevity. Many seniors living in retirement communities can benefit from the effects of joining a book club.

Randi Stretch, Fun Manager at Seasons Lethbridge Gardens speaks to the reading programs she’s created for her residents and describes the powerful emotional impact the book club has on those who participate every month,

“Book club always evokes meaningful conversation and memories,” says Randi. “We have read many historical fiction books based on hardships and struggles. Residents reflect on their own lives in reference to the narrative. Everyone is so respectful and attentive to each other. It’s amazing and beautiful to be a part of these moments.”

Randi displays the daily activity calendar in the elevator to inform residents about what is happening that day. Each month, she includes a description of the book that will be discussed during our book club meeting.

“One time, a resident who normally is reluctant to participate in group activities decided to come to book club even though she hadn’t read the book. The book that intrigued her was “Two Solitudes” by Hugh MacLennan.  It focuses on the struggle with culture and self-identity within the boundaries of French-English Québec. This resident grew up there, so she connected with the story on a personal level. Other participants asked her questions and she happily gave detailed responses. She had basically lived the book and experienced similar struggles as the protagonist. It was such an incredible moment for all of us to enjoy.”

Together, the group picks the next book to read. Randi has noticed the books her residents choose discuss strong societal issues:

“I think it’s because it makes them contemplate and reflect on past experiences. They also reflect on their parents’ lives and compare stories. All of our other activities normally last for about an hour but book club can easily go on for two. It’s a special activity that draws everyone closer.”

Reading is normally regarded as a solitary activity. Hosting a book club turns reading into a social experience where people have a platform to share and compare their interpretations of a narrative. Reading groups or book clubs allow residents to talk with their peers about topics that otherwise may not be discussed in a group setting.

Some of the books evoking personal discussions at Seasons Lethbridge Gardens are: “The Old Man and the Sea,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” and “Barometer Rising.”

Our residents’ preferences and desires shape the monthly activity calendar at Seasons. There are many ways to get involved in our retirement communities and we believe our residents deserve to choose how they spend their time.

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