I came across an interesting article titled “Reading Aloud to the Elderly” in The Lancet, a British medical journal. Texas journalist Carolyn Banks wrote about her experiences as an activities director in an adult day care center in the 1980s.
Carolyn loved to read so she settled on reading stories aloud as an activity for her clients. She discovered that reading aloud had a soothing effect with those who were agitated and drew out those who were usually withdrawn.
Finding engaging stories for this population proved to be difficult, so Carolyn compiled two volumes of short stories, A Loving Voice and A Loving Voice II. They’re out of print now, but used copies are available online. I borrowed them from the public library.
I asked Carolyn what to look for in read-aloud stories. “What I’ve discovered is that the writing has to be very straightforward, almost like children’s books in terms of style and language, but on adult topics and featuring adults as characters,” Carolyn said. “I also discovered that the person reading has to do so loudly and slowly with a lot of enthusiasm. Maybe even exaggerated.” She warned against stories with a lot of dialog.
Carolyn said reading aloud can help the reader too. “A lot of our thinking about A Loving Voice was that it would also benefit the person doing the reading. It would give them a way to fill the time in a way that would feel good to them and to the person they were visiting.”