As Baby Boomers continue to reach the 65 and older demographic, the threat of social isolation weighs heavily on health systems around the world.
43% of American seniors say that they feel lonely regularly, with 18% of adults in that age demographic reporting that they live alone.
A storytelling program in the UK could be a step that the rest of the world takes to address this hidden health issue. The Reading Friends project pairs teens up with senior adults to read stories and create new connections.
Reading Has a Positive Impact on Empathy
Many of the program’s participants say that having young people come to read to them has reignited their passion for literature. When Lorna Burnett got matched to a 15-year-old through the project, she said that the regular reading sessions also brought about a strong friendship that bridges the generations between them.
“We have only got through two books so far because we end up chatting too much,” Burnett told the BBC. “We have red two historical novels – and get on very well.”
Reading together helps senior adults and their assigned teens to experience more empathy, improve cognitive function, and increase feelings of wellbeing. For the 65 and older age demographic, there is a reduction in the risk of dementia development.
The program also gets young people connected in their community instead of relegating themselves to electronic communication.
The Reading Friends project is currently active in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. You can discover more about this effort through their website.