Update: In the years since I wrote this, I’ve realized that “elderly” can be seen as an ageist term. I now know that “older adult” is a better term. Still, the fact remains that people find these posts almost daily, years later, because they’re searching for “reading aloud to the elderly.” So I’m leaving the title intact, but highlighting the fact that these days, our terminology differs.
As we go through the Why, What, How and so on of reading aloud to older people, we come to WHEN. When should we do this? How do we know what’s a good time?
There is no better time than NOW. Especially when it comes to frail older people or those whose minds are compromised, delay can lead to regrets. Read when you visit. Read when you phone.
When my mother was first in a nursing home, having ended up there very abruptly after a fall, she was often very anxious. I couldn’t be with her all the time. ( As well as regular life and work, I was also dealing with my father, who had ended up in hospital after a fall a few days before Mum’s fall.)
One way we stayed in daily contact was by the phone, and when she was most anxious, the thing I found spoke to her best was the simple act of reading some of her favorite poems to her, over the phone.
So don’t let not being able to be there in person stop you from reading aloud!
Many seniors deal with some level of feeling lonely and isolated. As their physical abilities decrease, they find themselves unable to do the things they used to do, they often have to give up driving, they spend more and more time alone in their homes — or eventually in a nursing home where the hours can seem very long indeed.
Books can be a wonderful escape — but can become too heavy to hold, or vision problems, tremors, or cognitive abilities may provide obstacles to being able to read for themselves. Seniors may not be willing to ask for help in reading (or in other things, as well.)
So an aspect of WHEN is being alert to the need. When can happen at any time. Leading questions like “do you still read as much as you used to?” followed with an offer to read — either letters that have accumulated, or newspapers, or favorite books — can be easier than waiting for the person to ask for help.
WHEN? Any time. Tonight, tomorrow: take something with you that you’re eager to share the next time you visit your older friend or family member, or the next time you read something that makes you think “Oh, Mum would love that,” get on the phone and say, “I just read this and had to share it with you.”
Just be sure to do it — and remember WHEN is also not just one time only. This is a “when” that can happen over and over again, and can bring pleasure and a sense of connection for both of you.
I wish you well.