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.
The short answer is ANYWHERE. Don’t wait for a perfect time or place, just read.
You can read in someone’s home, ensconced in comfortable chairs with a cup of tea close at hand, or you can read at their bedside in a care home or hospital.
You can read over the phone, or via Skype or Zoom. (Hint: grandparents or great-grandparents love to have kids read to them via Skype.)
Don’t wait for a formal occasion – if you read something that an older friend or family member would find interesting, give them a call and read it to them.
If you know of someone who perhaps has sight issues, or other issues that might make reading difficult (such as hand or head tremors), give the person a call or pop in to see them. Ask if there is anything they’d like you to read for them. One friend of mine often wanted me to read letters to her.
Random acts of reading count, too! If you see someone in an elevator struggling to see what’s on a notice taped to the wall, offer to read it for them. If someone is holding a can of prepared stew close to his/her eyes, offer to help. (If they say no, don’t push the issue, but they may be glad of assistance.)
There are many lonely, isolated people in nursing homes. Check with the staff to see if there’s anyone who might benefit from having a read-aloud buddy.
Another possibility in nursing homes is to ask if you could read to a small group. In such a case, you’d need to make sure there is a sound system so you could be heard. Read short reminiscence stories, and encourage people to share their stories.
Wherever you are – look for opportunities, and READ!
Next month, we’ll talk about a closely related question – WHEN to read aloud to the elderly. See you then!