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Does Reading Improve Memory?

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An older man sitting at a table with a book open in front of him, focused on reading.

How we read may have changed over the years, yet it remains an integral part of our everyday lives. Many people do it for fun, and others may do it for a living, but did you know that reading can actually help improve your memory?

It isn’t a magic bullet to better memory. But by strengthening brain connections, exercising the brain, and reducing stress, you’re giving your brain its best chance at retaining and improving memory and recall.

Eating well and staying active are certainly healthy habits for seniors to develop. But the benefits of reading suggest that it could be a great habit for many people. Many senior communities offer opportunities for socialization through book clubs for added benefits.

How Reading Helps Memory

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s incredible ability to rebuild itself and create new pathways. This allows the brain to compensate for damage from things like injury or disease. For example, if one area of the brain is damaged, another hemisphere may be able to do its job. 

Researchers have taken our knowledge of this ability and learned that we don’t need to wait for damage to rewire our brain. Instead, we can use a process you could call self-directed neuroplasticity. The idea behind this is that you can kickstart the process of creating new pathways through focus and effort.

Reading by itself doesn’t necessarily engage the neuroplasticity of the brain. But it helps contribute to brain health and memory improvement in the following ways.

Brain Exercise

The mental stimulation from new neurons forming is good for improving recall. In addition to the stimulation that reading provides, it can also help with concentration and focus. Both of these can also be beneficial in memory.

Slows Cognitive Decline

A major symptom of cognitive decline is memory loss. Cognitive decline happens on a spectrum, so memory loss may be minor for some, yet others may need assistance in their daily lives. Fortunately, reading offers benefits in this area.

Researchers discovered that reading protected long-term cognitive function during a 14-year study. By protecting you from cognitive decline, reading helps protect you from memory loss and keeps your mind sharp.

An older adult sitting in a chair with a newspaper open in front of him, enjoying leisure time.

Stress Reduction

As we live our lives, our brains turn experiences into short and long-term memories. Unfortunately, we know that stress can greatly affect our mind’s ability to do this. There are many ways that a senior can take advantage of stress reduction techniques. For example, many communities include things such as opportunities for nature walks, fitness rooms, or spa services.

Even if a person doesn’t have access to these things, most people have access to some form of reading. And reading is a great form of stress reduction.

Strengthens Brain Connections

We know from neuroplasticity that the brain can form new connections. And there was a study several years ago that discovered a link between reading a novel and improved communication between the language-processing parts of the brain. 

Additionally, there is some debate in the scientific community about whether adult neurogenesis is possible. But reading is thought to help start this process by some researchers.

Other Benefits of Reading

Our mind and memory aren’t the only things that benefit from reading; boosts to your overall mood and mental health improvements are a couple of other benefits.


A great perk of living in an assisted living community or staying in one during respite care is the close proximity with other people. Sometimes there are opportunities to join things like a book club. This allows older adults to reap the benefits of reading together.

Plus, book clubs aren’t unique to retirement communities. Even if a person still lives in their family home, there are often local opportunities for similar clubs. 


Whether a person reads fiction or nonfiction and no matter what genre they read, each page is a chance to be transported to a different time and place. Everyone engages with reading differently, but the chance at adventures limited only by one’s imagination is always available.

Benefiting From Reading

Reading is an enjoyable activity that comes naturally for many people. Whereas it could be more of a chore for others. The benefits of reading aren’t so great that it’s worth being miserable if someone hates reading.However, it’s worth exploring the hobby further if you’re on the fence. And surrounding yourself with caring people is important if it’s a matter of not seeing well anymore or not being able to read well. If you’re considering retirement communities in Bedford, give us a call. Our staff can answer your questions and book you a community tour.

Written by bentley

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