When we think of readers, we often think of young people who enjoy reading books and magazines. But recent research shows that older people are increasingly part of this group. In fact, the group aged 65 and older is the group in which reading increases most. This is a positive development, as reading is not only a source of entertainment, but also has many benefits for the mental health and cognitive skills of older people.
According to the Barometer of Reading Habits 2023, carried out by the Federation of Publishers of Spain (FGEE), Spain still has a significant percentage of non-readers, namely 36% of the total population aged 65 and over. This means that more than a third of elderly people never or almost never read a book. While this number is still high, it is encouraging to see that the percentage of readers in this age group continues to increase.
From the investigation It turns out that the main reason for older people not to read is still a lack of time. Four in ten respondents indicated this as a reason. This is understandable, given the many responsibilities and obligations that older people have, such as informal care, volunteer work and social activities.
However, there is also a growing percentage of older people who choose to spend their time on other activities instead of reading. This may be due to the availability of other forms of entertainment, such as television and streaming services such as Netflix.
More time behind screens
When we look at the total time that older people spend on different screens, such as television and streaming services, it becomes clear why this poses a threat to reading. The research shows that older people spend an average of 4 hours and 20 minutes per day watching television and 1 hour and 30 minutes on streaming services. This means they spend almost 6 hours a day in front of a screen, which is a significant amount of time that could otherwise be spent reading.
In addition, it is also important to emphasize that this screen time is not only at the expense of reading, but also of other activities that contribute to active and healthy aging, such as social interaction and exercise.
Besides a lack of time and the availability of other forms of entertainment, there are other reasons why older adults choose not to read. One of these is declining eyesight, which makes it more difficult to read small print in books. This can be solved by using e-readers or audiobooks, but many elderly people still prefer physical books.
Another reason is a lack of interest in reading. Some elderly people have never developed the habit of reading and now find it too late to start. Others may have had negative experiences with reading in their youth, which led them to develop an aversion to books.
Women are the majority
The research also shows that women make up the majority of readers among older people. This is a trend that has been going on for years and can also be seen among younger age groups. According to the study, 60% of women aged 65 and over read regularly, while this percentage is only 47% for men.
This trend can be explained by several factors. First, women generally have more free time than men, especially after retirement. In addition, women are often more interested in literature and non-fiction books, while men prefer newspapers and magazines.
Since women make up the majority of older readers, it is not surprising that publishers are targeting this group. Publishers are trying to publish books that suit the interests and needs of older women, such as novels, biographies and self-help books. This is a smart strategy, as women are generally more likely to buy books than men.
In addition, there is also a growing market for audiobooks and e-readers, which makes reading more accessible for elderly people with declining eyesight. These developments are expected to contribute to a further increase in the number of readers among the elderly.