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Maintaining your reading and writing skills as you get older can make a big difference to your quality of life. Here you can read information about the benefits of maintaining literacy and discover how you can support your loved one.

On this page you can find information on:

1. The benefits of reading and writing
2. Making the most of reading and writing
3. Appropriate lighting
4. Sight problems

The benefits of reading and writing

In addition to cognitive benefits, reading and writing activities can provide enjoyment, ease stress and help your loved one retain their independence. These skills can help your relative maintain control of their own affairs and activities on a day-to-day basis.

They may also find it easier to stay up to date with current affairs and to keep in touch with family, friends and loved ones using the internet. These factors can help reduce the risk of isolation and loneliness.

Making the most of reading and writing

One of the best ways to increase the time your relative spends reading and writing is by incorporating activities into a regular routine. It’s also a good idea to make sure that your relative has the right equipment according to their needs.

For example, your relative may read the daily newspaper every morning (either physically or on a tablet or smartphone) or take out a subscription to a favourite magazine. He or she may also enjoy audio books or radio podcasts, particularly if they have sight problems or a physical ailment that makes it difficult for them to read the print media that they enjoy.  

There are also many options available if your relative is less physically able, such as ergonomically designed holders for books and newspapers. There are also grip pens that make writing easier. Finding the right computer for your relative could prove very beneficial if writing by hand is no longer possible.

Appropriate lighting

As we age, our ability to see well in dimmed lighting is reduced, so it’s a good idea to check that there are good lighting conditions in your relative’s home. General safety should be taken into consideration, as accidents can be avoided simply by having clearly lit rooms and spaces.

  • Make sure there is enough lighting throughout the home. Ensure that light bulbs have a high voltage and a shade that doesn’t diffuse the light level. A luminance between 750 and 1000 Lux is recommended. Consider the rooms hallways, corridors, stairways and also walk-in cupboards and pantry spaces.
  • Consider introducing task lighting to improve your relative’s comfort in certain situations (for example when they're reading in a chair or in bed). Daylight bulbs can also provide more clarity.
  • Check that light switches throughout the property are easy to find and in a convenient position for use. If this is not the case, consider having additional light switches fitted by an electrician.
  • In addition to the main lights, consider positioning lamps within easy reach of frequently-used spaces: for example, next to a favourite reading chair in the living room or on a bedside table.
  • If the plug-in lamps have switches that aren’t easy to access, you could consider installing remote-controlled socket adaptors. These devices allow your relative to turn off electrical equipment with a remote control.
  • Keep a spare stock of light bulbs in a place that is easy to access.
  • Wall-mounted, battery-operated lights can be a better, cheaper alternative to installing new electrical wiring. These come in a variety of styles and are operated by switch, pull cord or even movement sensors. They are particularly useful for cupboards and outdoor spaces.
  • If your relative gets up in the night, consider fitting indoor motion sensors to activate lights.

Sight problems

If your relative struggles to read smaller text in books, newspapers or magazines, and glasses don’t help, they could try reading aids, such as magnifiers and enhanced lighting. Your relative may also like to explore digital options, as many e-readers, laptops and computers have the option of increasing font size and backlighting to make reading easier.

Read more about eye tests in Vision and hearing problems.

More information

Page last reviewed: November 2016
Next review due: January 2019