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When I was a kid, I thought my grandma was old. She wore clothes I associated with older ladies and she made cinnamon sugar toast for us when we went over there. She used mothballs! When my grandfather died, it turned out she didn’t know how to pump gas or write a check. And she was in her early 70s! That’s not even old! Why did I think she was old?
Is it just that the times were different and nobody was out there writing think pieces about how moms and grandmothers needed to flaunt their sexuality? Is it because I’m getting closer to my grandmother in age, and when I was a wee, tween, and teen I just lumped “older” into one category? Or is this due to advances in healthcare and quality of living? I mean, my father-in-law is 72 and he’s perfectly capable of climbing a mountain if he wanted to (he doesn’t want to). But then again he’s about 40% robot at this point, having had so many joint replacements.
I might not find the answers I want to those questions, but one thing I do know is that reading keeps the brain young in many ways. Research is still being conducted, but early signs show that reading could even help prevent or reduce the severity of various forms of dementia, which is of particular interest to me because I have the APOE e4 gene, which increases my chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
So allow me to present to you some of the best books for seniors. Experts agree that the earlier a person gets started preparing their brain for senior-ness, the better off they’ll be, so I’ve got my work cut out for me, too.
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The thing about aging is that you don’t really need a book to tell you how to do it. All you really have to do is continue to not die and you will age, magically! But there are some great books for seniors on how to age healthfully and happily.
The Book About Getting Older (for people who don’t want to talk about it) by Dr. Lucy Pollock
This book is part self-help, part guide to aging, and part hilarity. It covers important things like how to ask your doctor if you really need to be taking a dozen medications and how to have difficult conversations about stopping treatment if a disease becomes terminal.
But it also has funny anecdotes and heartwarming stories. It’s a great choice if you want to start thinking about the hard stuff but you want a little levity mixed in for good measure.
From Age-Ing to Sage-Ing: A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Ronald S. Miller
How great is this title? Very clever! This is a book for seniors who want to age into a life that’s full of excitement and passion. Schachter-Shalomi aims to help readers let go of the negativity, fear, and anxiety that too often goes along with aging, and instead embrace the fact that with age comes some great benefits, like wisdom. He also covers the stigma around aging and gives some practical tips on remembering that what someone else thinks of you is none of your business. Hater’s gonna hate, as they say.
Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life at Every Age by Jo Ann Jenkins
When Jo Ann Jenkins was the President of the AARP Foundation, she focused on income insecurity, housing, isolation, and hunger. When she became the CEO of AARP, she changed the focus of the organization. While it had previously existed to help those of retirement age, she argued that there had been a fundamental shift in the way Americans aged. Today’s seniors often work or volunteer well past retirement age, and she saw an opportunity to help these folks, too. In this book, she shows people of all ages — with an emphasis on seniors — how to boost their “health, wealth, and self.”
Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife Edited by Carleen Brice
A collection of essays from incredible writers like Maya Angelou and Alice Walker, this collection looks at the aging process from the perspective of Black women. The topics covered include sexuality, personal growth, friendship, love, family, and financial independence. For the senior who wants to stop worrying about aging and start being grateful for not being 20 years old anymore, this is a great choice.
The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully by Joan Chittister
If you’re a senior who is financially stable and in relatively good health, but you still just don’t feel like you’re enjoying your life as much as you “should,” this book can help. Chittister gives advice on using the power of positive thinking to become an elder that is truly satisfied in life.
A big disclaimer: This book is targeted specifically to people who are well off financially, physically, and mentally. This is not going to be a helpful book for seniors facing the very real issues of housing insecurity, mental decline, loneliness, etc.
AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip by Jean Chatzky and Michael F. Roizen, MD
This is one of the more serious books for seniors. It addresses the challenges that many people experience with aging: declines in health, lack of income, etc. It’s not all bad news, though — this is a self-help book after all. It includes some hopeful and helpful gems to help seniors find a way forward.
Fiction in Large Print
It’s common for eyesight to decline as a person ages, and this can make it particularly difficult to read tiny words on a tiny page. There are tons of great audiobooks out there (and yes, audiobooks absolutely count as reading) and you can make an ereader’s text just about as big as you want, but if you love the feel of fresh pages between your fingers, then you need large print books for seniors.
Family Trust by Kathy Wang
Stanley Huang is a father, husband (and ex-husband), who has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As he nears death, his family comes to grip with the challenges they knew were coming but were still unprepared for. This is at times funny but it also takes the subject matter seriously. It’s a tale that takes the issues of death head-on, including the way a person’s culture can impact how death is prepared for and handled.
Bring on the Blessings by Beverly Jenkins
There’s nothing good about finding out two days after your 30th wedding anniversary that your husband is cheating. But there might be something good about getting $275 million and a few vacation homes in the divorce. That’s what happens to Bernadine Brown, who uses her newfound riches to buy the failing township of Henry Adams, Kansas. As one of the last surviving townships founded by formerly enslaved people, Bernadine wants to protect the town’s unique history and at the same time, create a place for foster children to find their forever community.
The Murder At the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
For fans of classic mysteries, it doesn’t get more classic than this, the first in the Miss Marple Mysteries. Though Miss Marple becomes a kinder, gentler lady as the book series progresses, in her debut she’s quite the gossip and not altogether pleasant. Those who live in her town generally like her, though they frequently point out that she sees the worst in everything. If you like a funny old gal then this is the place to start. If you’d prefer a kinder, simpler woman, then skip the first few and enjoy the other ten in the series.
I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan
Terry McMillan is best known for Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, which focused on characters in their 30s and 40s. In this tome, readers watch an older woman learn how to make sense of a world in which her career is a success and essentially on autopilot, her kids are grown, and she’s newly single after a divorce. But that’s not enough for this character, Dr. Georgia Brown, who decides it’s time for some new adventures. She quits her safe job, sells her comfortable house, and lets chance and love back into her life.
Puzzle Books for Seniors and Other Books to Increase Mental Sharpness
A variety of studies have now shown that jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, and other brain games can help keep the brain sharp. Check out the collection below and hop on over to our previous Puzzle Books for Adults if you’re looking for more.
Snack on that brain gain! This book is chock full of puzzles, mazes, dot-to-dots, and a bunch of other puzzle games that you loved as a kid but you’ll love even more with this collection aimed for adults with extra-special challenges.
New York Times Strictly Medium Crossword Puzzles by Will Shortz
I love crossword puzzles and I love The New York Times but sometimes theirs are really hard! Did you know? But then sometimes Mondays and Tuesdays are a little too easy. What to do? Simple — check out this book of very strictly only medium crossword puzzles.
More than just a collection of games and puzzles, this is a great example of senior memory books that can help teach us how to improve our own brains. And yes, there are some puzzles and games, accompanied by explanations and real science to back up why they’re used to improve memory.
The Ultimate Brain Health Puzzle Book for Adults: Crosswords, Sudoku, Cryptograms, Word Searches, and More! by Phil Fraas
This one’s got it all — crosswords, sudoku, cryptogram, word searches, and, believe it or not, there’s more!
Funster 250+ Large Print Word Search Puzzles for Adults by Charles Timmerman
Word search puzzles are great fun. I especially love working on them while I’ve got a little comedy podcast going in the background. These are great books for seniors in that they help with memory and they’re large print. Easy to read and work with — score!
I hope this list of books for seniors is helpful and provides hours of fun and stimulating brain time! The good news about keeping my brain sharp as I age is that I don’t even have to do anything I hate to do. All I gotta do is read fun books, crack some codes, and get some puzzling done. That’s a prescription I can fill, no problem!