Splendido, an all-inclusive community for those 55 and better in Tucson, offers residents many Ways to Age Well, from a fitness center complete with exercise classes to an ever-changing menu of healthy culinary delights.
Another amenity that most would not realize is focused on health is the on-site library where residents can check out recent bestsellers, browse magazines, or read the day’s paper. In fact, reading—and specifically, reading books—has been proven to have benefits for your brain, your mood, and even your longevity.
Books Boost Your Brain Power
Various research has shown that regular reading may help slow the normal aging of the brain and keep your mind sharp for longer. One study showed that older adults who performed mentally stimulating activities including reading had a rate of mental decline that was 32% lower than their peers with average mental activity. Plus, staying intellectually stimulated has been proven to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Reading Reduces Stress & Improves Sleep
Research also shows that reading is an extremely effective way to reduce stress. One 2009 study showed that reading an engrossing book—any type of book—is more effective at overcoming stress than listening to music or even taking a walk. Study participants were asked to read a book while they had their heart rate and muscle tension evaluated, and researchers found they relaxed in just six minutes, and were able to reduce their stress by as much as 68%!
Bedtime readers, take note: A nighttime ritual such as reading in bed before sleep trains your body to wind down, making sleep come more easily. Concentrating on a real book rather than an e-book or tablet avoids the wakening effects of looking at screens, so stick with a book with real pages.
Literature Lets You Live Longer
Finally, a 2016 study showed that those who regularly read books have a longer life span. Specifically, book-reading participants had a mortality risk that was 20% lower than readers of magazines or newspapers, when monitored over 12 years.
Meanwhile, Back at Splendido. . .
The light and airy volunteer-run library at Splendido is a busy place. Residents stop in throughout the day to peruse the shelves, read the Arizona Daily Star or New York Times, or enjoy a quiet visit. “Splendido is a huge family and there’s no reason for anyone to be isolated,” explains Marilyn Braun, co-chair of the Library Committee. “There are always people around to talk to, and the library has a nice comfy spot for visiting.”
The Library Committee has gradually evolved the focus of the library from being a source for reference books and other resources to providing books that residents read for entertainment. “We track each book that’s returned, so we can see what the most popular ones are,” explains Co-chair Dottie Langren. “Residents here mostly use the library for light reading—primarily fiction, with some biography.”
The library operates entirely on donated books and magazines, as well as occasional monetary donations. “We only keep one copy of each donated title, so we’ll sell any additional copies we receive at a used-book store, and then use our credits to buy books,” says Dottie. “We’ll buy a lot of used large-print books, because those can be expensive.”
Splendido Residents Read
Dottie holds a master’s degree in library science and spent 20 years working as a volunteer in the Sun City library. “The library here gets a lot of use,” she says. “In 2017 we had 5,663 books circulated. I think that’s good for a community this size!”
Both women are avid readers and are not surprised by the news that reading books is a healthy pastime. “I’ve always been a reader. I love books,” says Dottie. “Right now, I prefer a good mystery—but I’ll read just about anything.”
Marilyn says, “I like to vary what I read. My first year on the Library Committee, I was in charge of fiction and thought I should read all the books! I’ll still read a book if I’m curious about it.” She adds, “I feel so sorry for people who never got in the habit of reading books. I enjoy it so much and feel it’s especially beneficial for people my age.”
The continuous flow of new books to the Splendido library ensures that residents always have fresh titles to choose from, and to help them Age Well. “The library here is quite a gem. We’re lucky to have it,” says Marilyn.