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Keeping the mind fit

Reading promotion and mental health

2011-09-27

©_Mel_Curtis_Photographs

© Mel Curtis Photographs

In our aging societies, growing older while staying mentally and physically fit presents a great challenge. Reading plays a crucial role in this respect, as sustainable mental fitness and lifelong learning are increasingly important. Reading can assist us in achieving such goals. Joseph Addison (1672-1719) poignantly stated that “reading is for the mind what physical exercise is for the body”. The international research project on reading, healthy cognitive aging, and plasticity after brain damage (Lesen, gesundes kognitives Altern und Plastizität nach Hirnschädigung), managed by Dr. Susanne Schuett, Institute for Clinical, Biological and Differential Psychology at the University of Vienna, investigates reading habits of people aged 50+, assessing related healthy cognitive aging.

Reading makes a change: Books support healthy and active lives in late adulthood
Reading is fundamental in our lives: It is crucial for school and professional achievement, for coping with challenges in our daily lives and for a good quality of life. Furthermore, reading has a positive impact on our personal, social, cultural and even physical activities as well as our wellbeing. What is more: Reading is a very special physical activity and it determines how we grow old. Reading, particularly in late adulthood, supports mental health and fosters lifelong learning, Dr. Susanne Schuett from Vienna University claims.

Mental health in late adulthood: A matter of reading?
The matter is investigated in an international research project on reading, healthy cognitive aging, and plasticity after brain damage (“Lesen, gesundes kognitives Altern und Plastizität nach Hirnschädigung“, funded by the German Research Association), managed by Dr. Susanne Schuett, Institute for Clinical, Biological and Differential Psychology at the University of Vienna. Dr. Schuett uses an online survey to investigate reading habits of people aged 50+, assessing related healthy cognitive aging - in Austria, Germany and worldwide. Her project partners are: Professor Dr. Ilse Kryspin-Exner at the above mentioned Institute and Professor Dr. Josef Zihl , Munich University, as well as the Max-Planck-Institute for Psychiatry (Munich). The findings make a considerable contribution to insights into reading in late adulthood and healthy aging in our society.

Promotion of reading: right from the beginning, across the entire lifespan, including late adulthood
At present, research in reading as well as investigations of reading promotion focus on children and young people. While good reasons can be given for this emphasis, it is surprising how little we know about reading in late adulthood and how little is done to promote reading in older age. This is alarming: Even “normal“ processes of aging alter reading and might affect it permanently and thus even lead to people abandoning reading altogether. When considering the disorders that are frequent in late adulthood, e.g. dementia, strokes and age-related depression, it is evident that reading in late adulthood can by no means be taken for granted. The project team working with Dr. Schuett thus believes that research on reading is imperative throughout the course of life, from early childhood to late adulthood.

Wanted: Participants in online survey!
The researchers are now calling for participants aged 50+ - generation 50+, 65+, 80+ - regardless whether they read a lot, little or not at all. Participation in the online survey takes approx. 20 minutes. Participants are required to fill out online questionnaires regarding their reading habits, fitness and wellbeing.

The survey can be accessed via the following link: www.soscisurvey.de/lesenaltern

Participation in the study contributes considerably to investigating the relationship between reading and active, healthy aging in our society. Once the study has been completed, participants can obtain information regarding its outcomes and their practical implementation.
You are welcome to contact Dr. Susanne Schuett (principal investigator and survey management) for further information regarding the study and associated initiatives and topics (reading and reading promotion in late adulthood and reading and healthy aging).

Contact:
Dr. Susanne Schuett
Universität Wien
Institut für Klinische, Biologische und Differentielle Psychologie
Liebiggasse 5
1010 Wien
Tel.: 01 4277 47972
E-Mail: susanne.schuett@univie.ac.at
Internet: homepage.univie.ac.at/susanne.schuett

More information:
Mit Lesen gesund und aktiv Altern

Translated into English by Gwendolyn Schulte (DIPF)

 
 

kontakt@lesen-weltweit.de

Keeping the mind fit