Reading Help For Seniors

Do you struggle to remember what you just read? Do you finish a page of text and find yourself wondering what it was even about? Do you occasionally need to read sentences or paragraphs more than once for the ideas to “sink in”?

Sometimes life takes a toll on the cognitive skills the brain uses to think and perform, and we may feel the difference in activities we never struggled with when we were younger.

Like, for example, grasping what we are reading. Reading comprehension requires strong cognitive function in a variety of skills. Here are a few examples of how cognitive skills impact reading comprehension:

Attention: If attention skills are weak, you may too distracted to even begin to absorb what you are reading. Comprehension never has a chance, because you didn’t grasp enough information for other skills—like memory or visual processing—to even kick in.

Working Memory (also known as Short-Term Memory): Imagine that your attention skills are strong, but your working memory skills are weak. This, of course, is the skill your brain uses to hang on to information or ideas while you are in the process of using them. If working memory is weak, you may begin reading a page with great success, only to reach the bottom of the page and realize that what you read at the top of the page has escaped you.

Visual Processing: This is the skill your brain uses to create mental pictures of what you are reading, which can be extremely helpful when it comes to understanding or remembering content. When this skill is weak, reading comprehension can really suffer.

Four Steps to Better Comprehension

If you are an adult aged 50 or older who is struggling with reading comprehension, the following four steps may help. These steps aren’t meant to strengthen weak cognitive skills (we’ll talk about cognitive training, which does strengthen weak skills, in a moment), but they are nevertheless great habits that will assist you in your efforts to pay attention and remember what you’re reading:

  1. Skim the material. Preparation can make all the difference in many areas of life, and reading comprehension is no different. Pre-skimming the content you’re about to read can be as simple as browsing the table of contents, reading the first page of the introduction, and/or scanning chapter titles or subheads. By doing this, you are creating a big-picture “mental map” of the material you’ll be reading.
  1. Identify questions you need/want the material to answer. These might be formal questions (for example, questions at the end of a chapter), or informal questions (questions you’d like answered so you can apply the information to a project or goal). For example, if you are reading an article on how to build a birdhouse because you want to build a birdhouse, you probably have a lot of how-to questions for which you need answers. Identify what those questions are. Even better, write them down.
  1. Take notes. As you read, find way to engage with the material. Take handwritten notes, record audio notes, or use a highlighter to mark important ideas on the page. Read out loud. If you are reading digitally, there are computer apps that work like sticky notes. The point is to find a way to emphasize key concepts or passages. And in the process, remember to be on the lookout for the answers to the questions that you identified in Step No. 2.
  1. Review number 2. Were all of your questions answered to your satisfaction? If not, return to the text and find the answers you need. Not sure where to look? The mental map you created in the first step might help you know where to start looking.

Improved Comprehension Through Cognitive Training for Seniors

If grasping/remembering what you read is still a struggle, one or more weak cognitive skills are probably to blame. In fact, studies show that 85% of reading struggles are caused by cognitive weakness, which provides hope to struggling readers since weak cognitive skills can be strengthened through a process called cognitive/brain training.

Here are four things you can do if you would like to get to the root of comprehension struggles:

  1. Identify the exact weakness (es) causing the problem. A cognitive assessment takes about an hour, and will give you detailed information on each of your cognitive skills. Cognitive assessments are offered at a very reasonable price at LearningRx Brain Training Centers.
  1. Strengthen cognitive weaknesses with one-on-one brain training. One-on-one brain training is a form of cognitive training that pairs every client with his or her own trainer. The program consists of fun, challenging mental exercises, done face-to-face with your trainer, about an hour a day for 12 weeks or longer, depending on the program. Improvements in cognitive function after brain training are lasting and often dramatic.

Reading provides too many benefits—and too much enjoyment—to have comprehension go by the wayside as we age. Attention, memory, and visual processing are three of the many skills that brain training targets and strengthens.

Feel free to call one of our centers to learn more or schedule your first appointment at (972) 267-8900.