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Read Me A Story: Importance of Reading Aloud to Elderly People

by Oksana Dlaboha

Having a long, healthy and productive life is God’s greatest gift to all of us. Many great things come with old age such as the enjoyment of retirement, watching grandchildren grow up, and sharing knowledge and experiences.

But other conditions of senior citizenship could be frustrating. One of them is that elderly people are not able to read for themselves because they aren’t strong enough to hold a book, their vision isn’t what it was, or their hands quiver - just to name a few. This doesn’t mean that elderly people are not interested in the written word. Many of them are able to receive information from many sources, and understand and respond to it. They just have lost the ability to read for themselves.

For people who loved to read all their lives, this joy would be restored as well as their holistic health, known as body-mind-spirit needs, if only someone would be willing, even occasionally, to spend some time reading aloud to them. Katherine Mansfield, one of the world’s best-known short story writers and New Zealand’s most famous author, observed: “The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books.”

In the past, today’s senior citizens had read to their children and grandchildren, when they were young. But now, in advanced age, they sit, gazing out the window, waiting for the moment, when they can listen to reading aloud. And a moment of reading aloud has benefits for listeners and readers. It is always a moment of warmth, love, comfort, kindness and thoughtfulness. All of these moments could be created not just because of books, but because of listeners and readers.

Listening to reading aloud is a lively intellectual and emotional process. British philosopher John Locke wrote that “Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.” And thinking during reading aloud rebuilds body-mind-spirit needs and offers other benefits as well.

A reader who devotes time and effort will feel good after reading aloud – he or she has just given a gift, a gift of reading aloud, to someone. This individual listened to a story and felt great having accepted a gift, a gift of listening, and will surely remember it long after the book has been closed.

It is important not only to answer the question “why reading to elderly people who are not able to read to themselves is vital”, but other questions should also be considered such as “how to read, what to read, where to read, when to read and how much to read.” We are whole. We have parts that work collectively in maintaining this wholeness. Holistic health is more than the sum of our components. Our physical body, as well as our mind and spirit work with passion in tandem to sustain the integrity of our body-mind-spirit requirements.

Answers to these questions are crucial to restoring the holistic health of elderly people as well as understanding and maximizing other imperative benefits for listeners and readers.

Oksana Dlaboha is founder of Story Land, which specializes in reading aloud to anyone who needs it – to children, introducing them to best stories, to kids for whom the right story could have a therapeutic impact, to elderly people who are not able to read for themselves, to people with early stage of dementia, looking for a shadow of smile to reappear on their faces. In past – Oksana Dlaboha was a teacher of languages and literature and her passions since childhood has been reading a good book, always looking for the best one.

For more information, e-mail her at storylandqueen@gmail.com visit www.mystoryland.net , follow on Twitter @GoodMomGoose or call 201-390-2354.

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