Tap potential from reading to tackle dementia

Reading could be the key to reducing the concerning number of dementia sufferers in Singapore (Dementia helpline gets 40% increase in calls; Sept 5, 2018).

According to the report, one in 10 people aged 60 and above suffers from dementia in Singapore.

The potential from reading in combating dementia has yet to be fully realised, even though efforts have been made to utilise it as a preventive measure among seniors, such as the Senior's Tech and Read programme held in Bedok Public Library.

Research supports the idea that mental stimulation, like from reading, can protect and even improve memory skills.

One particular study observed 300 elderly people's memory and thinking abilities for six years, and discovered that those who reported they read were protected against deterioration of memory and brain damage. Additionally, memory decline was reduced by 30 per cent among those who remained avid readers into old age, compared with engaging in other forms of mental activity.

A likely reason for this phenomenon is that when one reads, he naturally has to remember characters, plot, setting and other information, which keeps the mind cognitively stimulated.

I recommend implementing reading programmes for the elderly in senior activity centres and public libraries.

These would not only provide them with the opportunity to learn how to read as well as keep them informed, but could also well be our trump card in the fight against dementia.

Rachel Ho Yixin (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2019, with the headline 'Tap potential from reading to tackle dementia'. Print Edition | Subscribe