For senior citizens, becoming visually impaired does not mean they have to give up books for good. Books on tape are a fantastic way of continuing to enjoy their favorite pastime without the struggle of holding up the book or reading the print. Studies show that simply listening to a story and envisioning the characters and scenery engages and stimulates the brain. Listening to books can also help combat loneliness, boredom and depression while reducing the risk of developing cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
You’ll never know how important reading a book is to you until you slowly start to lose the ability to do so. Take my grandmother for example, who as a little girl found the world was hers through books. At the age of five, she discovered a small bookshelf inside her one room school in a tiny town. The teacher saw her sitting in the corner flipping pages and soon thereafter taught her to read. It wasn’t long before she was reading and falling in love with the ability to get lost within a story. From then on reading became an integral part of her life.
That 5 year old country girl grew into a strong independent woman owning her own horse farm. She spent many years getting gritty under the Texas sun, caring for her horses by day and relaxing with a good mystery book by night. In 2008 her glaucoma would cause complications eventually leading to the loss of an eye and “seeing shadows” with the other. As her eyesight worsened she was slowly forced to give up her daily routines on the farm. She expressed feeling as if everything that made her…her, was being stripped away. The identity she had created for herself was literally vanishing before her eyes.
She could no longer drive her old green Jeep Cherokee, care for her horses or even read large print books. Things seemed pretty grim. One day her daughter suggested books on tape from the local library but the idea to seemed less than appealing to my Grandmother. Turning the paper pages and holding the book in her hands was part of the joy of reading. One day, she finally decided to give in. After all, the library offers them for free and extreme boredom was beginning to set in. Not only was the experience better than expected, she became hooked! Once again she found herself immersed in mystery novels, stimulating that part of herself she thought she had lost forever.
To those of us that know and love her, her identity goes far beyond horses or any physical limitations she has had to endure. To us, nothing can ever strip away her true identity. She continues to be that same strong woman we admire as we watch her bring light where there is darkness and find the humor in an unhumorous situation. In fact, she has an idea for a book of her very own involving the woe’s and ironic wonders of living a long life.
Have books on tape helped your loved one? Tell us your story in the comments below!