May 11, 2011

CHINA: A book a day helps keep the doctor away

.BEIJING, China / China Daily / Life / Health / May 11, 2011

 By Christiane Loell (China Daily)

Reading helps the elderly keep a sharp mind.
Su You / for China Daily

New retirees suddenly confronted with plenty of time on their hands might be happy to learn that reading keeps one mentally alert and abreast of current aff airs, says Ursula Lenz of Germany's working group of senior citizens' organizations, BAGSO.

Growing old can present difficulties such as failing eyesight or problems concentrating, but experts encourage the elderly not to give up on reading and to adapt to their situation.

From the perspective of health professionals, there are many advantages to reading books or newspapers for senior citizens.

The ability to transform words into mental images is good for cognitive performance.

Reading also improves vocabulary, language use and the ability to concentrate, according to Simone Helck from the Kuratorium Deutsche Altershilfe, an organization in Germany that helps promote and develop strategies for taking care of the elderly.

So, what exactly happens in the brain when we read?

"Th e brain builds new synapses, junctions between the neurons, when it's stimulated such as during reading," says Manfred Gogol, a physician and president of Germany's Society for Gerontology and Geriatrics.

Gogol recommends reading books that deal with subjects that are of special interest to the reader. If a long novel seems like too much work, then try a novella or collection of short stories.

But a prerequisite for reading is that any sight defect is corrected by an optician.

In response to the needs of elderly people, publishers print books with large typefaces and bigger line spacing. Lenz says it is worthwhile asking for large print books in libraries and bookshops.

But no matter what the reading matter is, another important aspect is being able to exchange opinions about a book with other people. Whether it's a society magazine, highbrow literature or a daily newspaper, there is always something to talk about.

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