Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Being is Meaningful Work

Being is Meaningful Work

For many years, my mantra has been, “Meaningful work, paid or unpaid, through the last breath.” For most of that time, I’ve been thinking about work as purposeful doing.

During the last 20 years since I shifted my professional focus on life-work planning from youth to older adults, I’ve wanted to counter ageism by showcasing the productivity and potential of older adults who are teaching and learning, doing and caring for themselves and others. The Census Bureau described all of us under age 16 or over 65 as “dependents.” It seemed important to show a different perspective. Whatever their age, people who were doing meaningful work that tapped their skills and interests – whether paid or unpaid — were benefiting both themselves and their communities.

So at age 69, in 2001, I completed my PhD in Minnesota with a survey report on “Productive Aging in Rural Communities.” We quantified the economic value to the community of the time devoted by age 55+ adults to employment, volunteering, and caring for grandchildren and sick/disabled adults. We also asked people about their health and how they were feeling about themselves. In these rural communities where both younger workers and aging services were sparse, older adults were often the only ones around to do what was needed. Older adult productivity was extraordinarily high and along with it, the health, positive attitude, and self-reliance of older adult residents.

Those survey results nudged me to start organizing education and advocacy to support self-determination, creative expression, and meaningful work for and with older adults. Since then, I’ve co-founded three older adult networks to raise awareness about our potential and cultivate leadership for positive aging: the Vital Aging Network, the SHIFT network, and the global Pass It On Network.

This year, whether because of my age (85) and stage of life or because of the tensions that appear to be growing in this splintered world, I’ve been hungry to hear about the changes that people are perceiving both in the world around them and within themselves. During my recent visit to the Seattle area, my daughter responded to my need and convened a Circle of wise women who voiced some deep questions for all of us to ponder:

  • How can we create a future that will be worthy of the potential of human life? By what narrative are we going to live and die that will take the cosmos into account?

  • Am I ready to step up to my real life? As an artist, am I ready to spin the yarn of the new realities and still express the nature of belonging and sense of home?

  • What does it take to show up full-hearted with people different from me? To bridge differences and become a peacemaker? To find spaciousness?

  • How can we step up as women with heart, soul and body? Will we have our posse at our back to support us?

  • What are the stories that we will leave for the future to find? What will hint of our deep past? How will l deposit things that will be useful? We are Thresholding!

As stated by one of the wise women, Christina Baldwin, co-founder of The Circle Way and creator of Peer Spirit Circles, “The Circle is a sacred container where magic happens.”

I am trying to make changes to live my learning as time goes on.

And where are you in the process of living this life?

Author -  Janet M Hively, PhD

- By Janet M Hively, PhD

Jan Hively is a social entrepreneur who has co-founded three non-profit networks for older adults to share their strengths and help each other, themselves, and their communities since she earned her PhD at age 69 in 2001 with a dissertation on Productive Aging. Her global Pass It On Network is based in Paris with its co-founder and International Coordinator, Moira Allan.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mesothelioma and the Risk for Seniors

Mesothelioma and the Risk for Seniors

Cancer is a difficult subject to talk about. It is invasive, draining and life changing and most everyone personally knows someone who has been affected. However, fear of the disease cannot dissuade from important conversations about risk, prevention, and next steps.

The fact of the matter is cancer is a disease of the aging. “The cumulative risk for all cancers combined increases with age, up to age 70” with about 50 percent of cancer cases found in those 65 and older. That number is expected to increase to 70 percent by 2030 as illnesses that formerly caused death at a young age gain better treatments or are cured altogether, meaning people are living well into their 70s, 80s and 90s.

But age does not mean you have to be submissive to an eventual cancer diagnosis. Chances of cancer are much lower if you live a proactive, healthy lifestyle. What you’ve heard is true; consistent exercise, avoiding heavy alcohol consumption, and limiting your intake of red meats do reduce the risk of cancer diagnosis. Prevention is key!

It is important to maintain those good habits as a senior for the benefit to your overall health, however, you should also be aware of the life you led in your younger years and how that may be affecting your health today. For example, if you smoked as a young adult before realizing the unhealthy side effects, your chance of lung cancer may be higher than non-smokers’ as it is estimated that 45% of those diagnosed were former smokers.

Similarly, you should be aware of any past workplace exposure to hazardous chemicals. According to the CDC, “Based on well-documented association between occupational exposures and cancer, it has been estimated that 3-6% of all cancers worldwide are caused by exposures to carcinogens in the workplace,” which equates to between 45 and 90 thousand new cancer cases each year.

One such environmental toxin is asbestos. A natural mineral and known carcinogen, asbestos exposure is the cause about 80 percent of mesothelioma cancer cases. The material was used in the many industrial jobs until limited regulations were put in place throughout the 1970s and 80s. It may seem unlikely that you will ever need to know this information, however, it is especially important for aging men to understand the risks associated with mesothelioma.

What You Should Know about Asbestos Exposure and Your Risk of Cancer

Through much of the 20th century the material asbestos was used in thousands of products from insulation and brake pads to clothing and kitchen appliances for its incredible heat and fire resistant properties. However the connections between asbestos and the respiratory conditions mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis soon became apparent and the avoidable risks to blue-collar workers and their families outweighed the benefits. It is estimated by the National Institute of Health (NIH) that 11 million people were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1978, much of that comes from workplace exposure.

Industry employees most exposed are firefighters, construction, shipyard and automotive workers, and asbestos miners. Because those industries are male dominated, men are about five times more likely to develop mesothelioma than women, however there are many instances of spouses and children being diagnosed from secondhand exposure. It should also be noted that port cities and Rust Belt states show higher rates of mesothelioma mortality at two to four times the norm.

Because of a long 20-50 year latency period (the time between exposure and noticeable symptoms), 80% of those diagnosed with mesothelioma are 65 or older with an average diagnosis age of 75 for males and 72 for females. (Note these numbers are considerably higher than the average statistic for all cancers above). Please consult a doctor if you are experiencing symptoms and believe you may have been exposed to asbestos, especially if you fall into the high risk categories of occupation, location, age or gender.

Earlier Diagnosis Leads to Longer Survival

The good news is, though instances of cancer are on the rise, an overall increase of cancer survival rates, including mesothelioma, is attributed to better prevention, detection and treatment methods. Mesothelioma is a cancer often associated with a late diagnosis and low survival rate. The average life expectancy for a mesothelioma patient is 12-21 months after diagnosis and between 5 and 10 percent of mesothelioma survivors lives at least five years after diagnosis. However, early detection is especially important as there is a strong correlation between the age and stage at which diagnosis occurs and survival. One study showed individuals diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma at the age of 65 lived on average eight months longer than those diagnosed at 75 or older. Similarly, catching the cancer at Stage I rather than Stage IV can add years to your life.

Often times general mesothelioma symptoms like chest pain, fatigue, nausea, hoarseness and difficulty swallowing are thought to be the result of other respiratory illnesses, and thus a test for mesothelioma cancer happens very late in the process. Alerting your doctor with knowledge of symptoms and awareness of possible exposure maybe save your life by catching the cancer early.

Additionally, diagnostic and treatment options are improving everyday. One way to detect mesothelioma is through a blood test that identifies biomarkers in the bloodstream. New studies have found a biomarker protein called high mobility group box protein 1 (HMGB1) that can amazingly identify those who have been exposed to asbestos and have a high risk of developing mesothelioma, but have not yet done so. Another example is a non-invasive breath test that was recently developed that has a 90% accuracy rate allowing for effective diagnosis at a treatable stage of the cancer. New precision medicine and immunotherapy are seeing early successes in clinical trials. An ongoing study at Baylor University is testing the effectiveness of using immunotherapy, an immune system boosting treatment based on genetics, as a neoadjuvant (before surgery).

The Best Defense Is a Good Offense

As with any illness, prevention is the more effective “cure.” Although many researchers and scientists are working hard everyday to find a true cure for cancer, that accomplishment may still be years in the making. Until then, there are steps we can all take to try and prevent a future cancer diagnosis.

Author -  Emily Walsh

- By Emily Walsh

As the Community Outreach Director at Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, Emily Walsh builds awareness about asbestos and mesothelioma, an aggressive and rare cancer that affects about 3,000 people in the U.S. each year. MCA is an organization dedicated to providing reliable and current information and resources for those with mesothelioma and their loved ones.


Age and Cancer Risk: A Potentially Modifiable Relationship,” National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Cancer Prevention: 7 Tips to Reduce Your Risk,” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER).

Malignant Mesothelioma” American Cancer Society, Inc.

Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality — United States, 1999–2015” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Occupational Cancer” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reducing Your Risk” LUNGevity Foundation.

U.S. Federal Bans on Asbestos” United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy” Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

2016 in Review: Recapping Mesothelioma Research” Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Monday, July 17, 2017

When A Lifelong Friend Tells You They Are Gay

When A Lifelong Friend Tells You They Are Gay

Many older Americans are finding themselves in flux lately when it comes to societal changes. Political differences are pitting lifetime friends against one another. Other friends are divorcing after decades of marriage. Heck, even gay rights aren’t called gay rights anymore; they are LGBTQ rights (lesbian, bisexual, gay, queer and transsexual). How is one supposed to react to these changing times?

Social issues like race and sexual preference are a hot button that can really get people going. While more and more Baby Boomers and those from generations before that are changing beliefs they’ve always held, some are still clinging to them tightly. Others are stuck in the middle, just trying to make sense of things. But seriously: What do you say to a friend is widowed and then tells you he’s been gay all his life so he’s moving in with his boyfriend now?

You’re not alone if you feel a bit overwhelmed and unsure of how to act around others these days. And you’re not alone if you are one of the ‘others’ whose life is being lived more freely than in the past.

Those Who Identify as LGBTQ Are Increasing

Among the difficulties that many older Americans will face – beyond disproportionate levels of poverty and depression – is LGBTQ acceptance. By most standards, this part of the older population is only just now becoming accepted by portions of the populace. In fact, older adults are struggling the most with these issues of acceptance.

According to the American Psychological Association, there are currently more than 2 million Americans over the age of 65 who identify as LGBTQ. Caitlyn Jenner is among those who are most well-known.

Jenner came out as being transgender when she was 65 years old. Her name then was Bruce Jenner, a well-known Olympic, gold-medal-winning, decathlete who first blew onto the world stage in the 1970s. For decades, Jenner lived another life away from cameras – a secret life as a woman. The admission that she was transgender created quite a stir in the news and on social media, and when Jenner completed the transformation from male to female in September 2015, it was really all anyone could talk about.

Some agreed with Jenner’s decision to finally be true to who she is. Others condemned it with questions like, “How can anyone who has been a man all his life suddenly decide he wants to be a woman?” The answer, though, isn’t as simple as some might believe, but the decision – and all of the upheaval that goes along with it – might be more common than you realize.

People like Jenner hide their true selves from even their closest friends in order to be accepted by society so, for them, the public ‘coming out’ is not sudden for them. But when they do begin to express themselves to others, they face the possibility that longtime friends will abandon them.

How you react to a friend’s disclosures is a personal decision but it’s important to understand that, whether it’s divorce or a gender change, the people you know are still the same people you have grown to love and trust through the years. It wouldn’t be strange, though, for you to feel that longtime trust has been betrayed because of confidences your friend has held in.

It might help to look at the situation from their perspective: Your friend has found the courage to trust you enough to finally share something they have wanted to for years. Whatever has kept them from revealing themselves – whether that’s religious belief, embarrassment, fear of reprisal, etc. – has now left. An often decades-long personal struggle is difficult to overcome for the one in the battle; no one expects the one just learning of the battle to suddenly accept the news.

Not all older Americans who identify as LGBTQ are as high-profile as Jenner, but all will face much of the same discrimination she did – many from their own peers. The problems they experience as they open up their lives may only be the beginning of years of discrimination for them.

Acceptance After a Lifetime of Belief

It’s not just sexual orientation issues that older Americans struggle with, of course. The Silent Generation and even Baby Boomers were raised during a time when race relations where difficult. Growing up with watching the struggles that non-white races – and even women – went through to gain equality, people’s belief systems were fed from all sides.

Today, racial lines are blurred, as more people refuse to see color and instead look beyond skin to see what’s inside. Interracial marriages are commonplace now, for example.

In the end, say experts, anyone can learn tolerance and acceptance for almost any issue that might divide them from those they know.

Denise Spivak, Senior Director of Programs and Outreach for LGBTCenters.org says, “Always focus around first recognizing and accepting whatever bias, stigma, discrimination, etc. that one has and then committing to addressing it. Then the work of educating yourself, overcoming things that were taught to us/ingrained in us when we were young, learning more about the people you think you know all about, realizing that in many cases you already have friends, relatives, co-workers, employees, neighbors, etc. that fall into those categories that cause you discomfort (or fear).”

“Even though we all have our differences, at the end of the day we are all human beings. We all have our own basic set of beliefs, but at the core of most issues of bias, stigma, hate, discrimination, etc., is a basic lack of understanding, knowledge, and fear of the unknown. For older people, it can mean a lifetime of beliefs and feelings being changed, but it’s possible. The minute one is willing to open their mind and their heart, amazing things can happen.”


The LGBT Aging Issues ,” American Society on Aging.

Resources,” LGBT Centers, Denis Spivac.

10 Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide,” February 2010, Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Senior Audience: Large, Growing, and Diverse,” July 2011, Public Health Agency of Canada.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Aging,” American Psychological Association.

LGBTQ Seniors Face Discrimination in Long-Term Care,” Anna Gorman, October 2016, PBS Newshour.

LGBT Seniors Are Being Pushed Back Into the Closet,” David R. Wheeler, August 2016, The Atlantic.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

What is Hospital Discharge Planning?

What is Hospital Discharge Planning?

Senior care veterans know that most families are in a time of crisis when they start looking for senior supportive services. One of the most common instances is after an acute stay or procedure at the hospital. Often it is during the discharge planning process that seniors and their families find these supportive services. Successful discharge planning can be the difference between a successful and disastrous senior living transition.

What Is Discharge Planning?

First, here are some basics on the process. Discharge planning happens while you are in the hospital. Hospitals that participate in Medicare and Medicaid are required to provide discharge planning, although what that looks like varies depending on the size of the hospital and your level of need.

Discharge planning can include a range of activities such as: (1) scheduling follow-up appointments with primary and specialist physicians; (2) setting up home supportive services; (3) ordering supportive products like wheelchairs and oxygen tanks; (4) arranging short-term respite stays at senior living communities; (5) evaluating the patients prescription coverage and coordinating other insurance-related issues; (6) directions on health conditions and how to manage them at home, and (7) resources and education on supportive services and programs once you transition out of the hospital.

Discharge planning ends when you leave the hospital. Ideally, at that point, arrangements have been made for transitional care into a senior community or at home.

Why Is Discharge Planning Important?

Discharge planning may seem trivial after the drama of a hospital stay. Depending on your needs, it can be as simple as prescriptions and written instructions for follow-up care. In many cases, however, hospitalization is only the start of the journey. If you have suffered a stroke, for example, you probably have a lengthy and complicated recovery ahead of you. The transition home is even more complex if you have multiple health challenges. In these cases, discharge planning is critical to make sure everything you need is in place when you return home. Good discharge planning can improve the coordination of care, make your recovery easier, and decrease the chance that you will need to be re-hospitalized.

Who Provides Discharge Planning?

Most discharge planning is done by a nurse or a social worker on staff at the hospital. Social workers are uniquely positioned to provide effective discharge planning for a number of reasons. They are able to assess and address all of their patients needs, including but not limited to medical needs. They work as part of a multidisciplinary team that includes doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. The social worker acts as the patient’s liaison to that team and coordinates information and the efforts of that team on your behalf. She is your voice in the hospital. These social workers can also convene meetings that include you, your family, and hospital personnel to discuss your illness, treatment, and plan for care once you leave the hospital. They can help you and your caregiver become your own best advocate, since once you leave the hospital you will in effect be your own care manager.

Social workers also have a strong grasp of local resources and services. They have lots of connections in the community. This means they can help link you with a range of services including financial resources, caregiver support, meal delivery, and other services you didn’t even know existed. They can also connect you to a community-based social worker who can continue to help you after you leave the hospital.

Discharge planning is an important part of any hospital stay. If you are hospitalized, make sure you ask to speak to the social work discharge planner to ensure your transition home is as smooth as possible.

Author -  Amanda Toler Woodward, PhD

- By Amanda Toler Woodward, PhD

Amanda Toler Woodward, PhD is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at Michigan State University. She does research on services and supports for older adults including racial and ethnic disparities in access to services and international comparisons of service systems.


Social Work Profession,” National Association of Social Workers.

Hospital Discharge Planning for Elders,” Seniorly.

Transitional Care for Rehabilitation” Seniorly.

What is Respite Care?” Seniorly.

A version of this article, Hospital Discharge Planning for Elders written by Amanda Woodward appeared in Seniorly’s Senior Living Resource Center.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

An Incomplete Story

As a filmmaker and video producer I’m always looking for the story at the heart of every subject. With regard to aging in America I’ve found a fatal flaw. There’s something missing. There’s a disconnection in the plot. I’ve heard experts talk about how Baby Boomers aren’t comfortable with getting older and how they struggle with retirement and refuse to let go of adulthood. They then go on to talk about the problems that could likely occur when this demographic reaches old age and needs to be cared for. What? It’s like the record skipped. There seems to be a few scene’s missing in this story (almost an entire act). What happens between the end of the adult paradigm (work, careers, parenting etc.) and eventual old age?

Limited Vision

We’ve all read the headlines about the impending crisis of how and where the Baby Boom generation will be cared for as they age. Concerns over eventual overwhelming health care costs and diminished quality of life in outdated nursing homes are very real. These issues require bold new solutions and radical ideas but are secondary to the most profound issue facing “boomers” as they cross the threshold from adulthood into the 3rd phase of life. There is something missing. A key to living a full and purpose filled life.


Who are we when we transition out of our adult lives and careers? What can we look forward to in this new frontier of longevity? We struggle to drag our adult persona forward with us as we age only to find that many of those elements don’t fit us anymore. Our culture does not provide us with a functional image of who we can become as we take on the role of “senior” in our county (a title that is in great need of replacement). The media is filled with messages of denial. “All of the experts on TV are anti-aging gurus” says geriatrician Dr Bill Thomas. We are told to stay young, turn back the clock and never grow old as if growing older is something we should and could avoid. This is a false image created by a youth-centric culture that does not value the gifts of longevity.

The question of identity is put succinctly in the title to Connie Goldman’s book Who Am I Now That I’m Not Who I Was? We struggle with this time in our lives because we know we are moving away from something but we don’t have a clear view of what we might look forward to. There is a new identity yet to be forged by the generation most associated with cultural change. A realistic identity built on an authentic paradigm for the years after adulthood and pre-old age, a span that is growing exponentially. Within this new paradigm exists tremendous potential for growth, development, transformation and the cultivation of a lifetime of experience into wisdom and perspective. There is a unique opportunity for transformation not possible in earlier stages of life. In the words of Dr.Thomas “This is the greatest change in the life of a person since puberty and brings with it the opportunity to become new again.” What will be our true identity as we age? How can we explore our own knowledge and wisdom and join with others to bring valuable insights and perspective to a world in need?

The Whole Story

Denial and anti-aging messaging are the placeholders for the missing pieces in this script and we deserve to experience the complete story. As our focus has become limited to youth and productivity we have forgotten the valuable role of the elder in our homes and in our culture. If we choose to remove our blinders and address our fears of being older we can discover what it means to live our complete lives from beginning to end. Within this image we can develop a new role of elders in our society, a substantial role with unique gifts of great value. As we restore and refine the role of elder we will begin to find purpose and meaning in all parts and phases of our lives and clarity about who we are and who we can become as we age. With this clarity we will be free to dream of new options for living and then bring those dreams to fruition. I believe that with a new and authentic image of what life after adulthood can be the issues related to housing and healthcare will be effectively addressed and new opportunities for living will be created.

Our Challenge

What will be our part in the development of this new stage of life? How will we take on the false messages of aging and replace them with images of living more authentically as we grow older? How can we serve the aging ‘boomer” population and their families more effectively and help them discover the many gifts of long life? As advocates for better aging how can we bring our professional expertise to the table in new ways and help forge a new image of what life can be after adulthood. Former NPR reporter and author Connie Goldman said, “It is a gift to live a long life…aging is an adventure!” New pathways to success could be found in being valuable guides on this journey as we explore the growing frontier of longevity. Here’s to an exciting and rewarding expedition! It’s going to make a terrific story!

Author - David Carey

- By David Carey

David Carey is a video producer with Show & Tell Group and filmmaker with The Aging Film Project.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Secrets To A Long Life

“I’ve got a truck out there and it runs just like I want it, so I just keep it.”

Behind the wheel of a decades-old blue-and-white two-tone Ford pickup, Richard Arvin Overton, the oldest living WWII veteran in America, is confident and clear-eyed. “I like to drive myself because other drivers, they drive crazy!”

An Army veteran, he joined the service in 1940 and fought in the western Pacific from 1944 to 1945. He’s made Austin, Texas, his home his entire life – all 111 years of it.

“If it’s your time to go, that bullet’s gonna getcha,” he says. “If it ain’t your time to go, that bullet’s goin’ over your head. It ain’t gonna hit ya.”

He shared, “I still walk, I still talk and I still drive.”

How does he do it? Among his secrets to longevity are these gems:

  • Don’t fool with a credit card. Pay cash.

  • Smoking cigars just makes you feel better. But don’t inhale.

  • Don’t feed a cat too much; he won’t eat a rat.

  • Anytime you wake up – even if it’s 1 or 2 in the morning – just get up.

  • If you give up, you’re through!

“I may give out, but I never give up.”


109-Year-Old Veteran and His Secrets to Life Will Make You Smile – Short Film Showcase,” YouTube. 2017-04-25. Retrieved 2017-07-10.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

E-Readers Can Bring Back Your Reading Habit

E-Readers vs Paperback

E-readers offer a host of benefits to those who suffer from low-vision or arthritis issues, but many older Americans still prefer an old-fashioned paperback.

Did you get an electronic reader (e-reader) for Christmas? Is it still in the box? If it is, you’re probably not alone. Many older adults prefer to avoid technology for as long as possible, and if that’s you, that’s OK. Even if the kids expect it and all of your friends are doing it, there’s nothing that says you have to give in to technology. But before you give up on it completely, there are some things about that e-reader that you might want to know.

Maybe you’re not tech-averse, but you’ve heard stories about how difficult e-readers are to use, or how they can cause eye strain. However, you are intrigued by that little device and the fact that maybe it will make it possible for you to read again. The good news is, using an e-reader might be easier than you thought.

E-Readers Versus Paperbacks: Which is Better?

According to PEW Research Center, only about 19 percent of Americans over the age of 65 own an e-reader. In part, this is because older adults are adopting multi-use tablets instead of single-use e-readers. Another reason more older adults don’t own e-readers, however, is a life-long love of the printed word. Nothing beats the experience of cracking the spine on a brand-new paperback book, inhaling the musty scent of the pages combined with the sharp twang of the ink, and settling down to enjoy a really good story.

Paperbacks still have their place; the tactile nature of a book is its greatest appeal. E-readers, on the other hand, also have some benefits.

  • You can keep an entire library on an e-book. Most have enough storage capacity to hold thousands of books.

  • You can download books from your local library. You can use the e-reader’s internet capabilities to access your local library system, reserve books and automatically download books to your e-reader. This feature – particularly during winter months when weather is bad – can keep you reading even when you can’t get out of your home.

  • You can adjust the font size and page colors of most e-books. This makes it easier for people who suffer from vision problems to continue reading long after a paperback is feasible.

  • E-books are lighter and often easier to manage than a paperback. If you suffer from arthritis that makes it difficult or painful to hold a paperback book for long periods of time, an e-book might be a good solution to allow those marathon reading binges that you love.

  • The e-ink technology (a special electronic ink that makes screens easier to read) found in many of today’s e-books makes it possible to use them indoors or out. As an added bonus, many e-books are now waterproof, so you can still read by the pool, at the beach or in the tub without fear of damaging the unit.

  • E-books are actually easier to read than books. Experts once believed that e-readers caused eye strain, but studies now show that the opposite is true, especially for models that use e-ink technology. Researchers have found that e-books reduce eye strain, and in turn, may improve mental function in older adults.

Despite the similarities and differences, there is no one option that’s better than the other. If you love reading a paperback book, and it still works for you, then that is absolutely the option you should choose. But don’t write off e-readers completely, because there may come a time when an e-book offers you the ability to continue reading where a paperback will not.

Choosing the Right E-Reader

Maybe you don’t have an e-reader hidden away in a box, but you want one. What features should you look for? First, consider how you want to use the device. Will you usually only read indoors? At night or during the day? Some e-readers are better designed for indoors, some for outdoors; some have features that make reading at night impossible. Ensure you know how you plan to use the device, because that will determine the features that you need.

Next, look for something that is comfortable to use. Try a few different e-readers to find one that’s the right size and weight for you. E-readers come in various sizes, ranging from around 6–12 inches. The larger an e-reader, the heavier it will be, but the tradeoff is that larger devices offer more screen real estate for those who need larger type.

Look for ease of use, too. Most e-readers are either touch-screen or have two or three buttons to operate them. Look for a device that has buttons that are comfortable for you to use. Also, check out backlight options if you plan to read at night, or look specifically for e-ink technology if you plan to regularly use the e-reader outside.

Finally, talk to someone who can show you how the e-reader works – both for reading and purchasing books – before you buy it. Ask them to walk you through the features. Grandchildren are a great resource, and e-readers give you an opportunity to connect with younger family members. Don’t have grandkids? No problem. A good salesperson will be able to help you find an e-reader that’s comfortable and easy to use.

If you love reading, but have found that it’s getting harder to read printed books, consider an e-reader. They offer many benefits you won’t find in a paperback, and will allow you to keep reading the stories you love.


Seniors Gravitate Towards E-books?” Michael Kozlowski, February 2013, E-Reader.

E-readers for Seniors,” Spring 2010, Urban Libraries Counsel.

PEW: More Seniors Own Tablets or E-readers than Smartphones,” Sam Kirkland, April 2014, Poynter.

Senior Citizens Lead the Charge Toward the Adoption of E-books,” Rich Steeves, February 2013, TechZone360.

The Tech Devices Seniors Love,” Kimberly Barnes, Senior Lifestyle.

Technology Use Among Seniors,” Monica Anderson, May 2017, PEW Research Center.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors