Activity of the Week: Reading Aloud

You're never too old to love a good story.
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Reading out loud to your loved one is a wonderful way to pass time while providing an easy, mini cognitive workout (for both of you!). Choose a favorite classic, poetry, inspirational readings, or even the day's newspaper.

What you'll need:

Reading material, good light, and comfortable seating. Optional: hot chocolate, cookies, and lap blankets.

Why it's great:

Reading aloud is mentally stimulating, allowing both the reader and listener to create mental pictures while encouraging critical thinking skills ("What will happen next?").

You can distract someone from pain, discomfort, or agitation.

Reader and listener relax and bond in a low-key way.

Reading can provide an ever-ready conversation starter. ("When did you read this book before? Who's your favorite character?")

It's economical -- inexpensive reading material is everywhere.

It's a soothing way to wind down at the end of the day. Try reading aloud as a bedtime ritual, especially if your loved one is prone to early-evening agitation.

How to do it:

Select your reading materials: Ask your loved one about favorite books or movies, check his or her bookshelves, borrow from a friend, or visit the library together. Think about the person's interests (sports? cooking?) or background (such as a book set in his or her hometown or favorite travel destination). Some books that work well: Huckleberry Finn, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Seabiscuit, Into Thin Air, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage.

Don't overlook poetry, limericks, or plays. Our brains like the cadence of words that rhyme and phrases that have rhythm.

Note that someone with dementia might appreciate simpler plots and books with images, or even (later in the moderate or early-severe stages) children's stories; you might need to experiment to find out what sparks interest and what offends.

Take turns if your loved one can still read and likes to do so. (Consider large-print books, if needed.)

Don't be shy; use voices! It's not only fun but helps direct attention better if you can sound like a wicked witch, a tiny fairy, or a booming judge.

Don't worry about skipping over parts that seem less engaging or rereading passages that the listener seems to spark to.

Take your book with you to the doctor's office or hospital.

Try including reading aloud at family events, such as holiday gatherings or reunions.

Branch out from reading: Some people like audiobooks. Or you may enjoy watching a movie version of a book after you read it, then talking about what each of you likes and dislikes about the different versions.