Did you know that writing has powerful health benefits? Most people don’t associate writing with the elderly, but there are many advantages to starting this habit or keeping it up well into your later years. Writing can take on many forms unique to an individual's needs and preferences.
- Gratitude journal
- Pen pal correspondence
- Bullet journal
- Life story/memoir writing
- Creative writing
Here are reasons every senior can benefit from writing:
1. Stimulates Cognitive Function & Memory Retention
Writing something down helps you to remember it. This is how we learned all those years through school. Seeing things on paper and reading them back to yourself boosts memory and comprehension, which leads to improved cognitive processing. If you’ve been out of the habit of writing, engaging in this regularly will form new neural pathways and connections, which help keep the brain sharp, too.
2. Reduces Stress
There’s a reason therapists suggest writing in a journal. Transferring overwhelming thoughts and feelings onto paper helps our brains process and organize our emotions and reactions to what is happening in life. Writing down what we’re experiencing helps us examine, understand and move past difficult situations. Essentially, it helps us complete what author and psychologist Emily Nagoski calls ‘the stress cycle’.
3. Improves Sleep
Ever lie there awake at night unable to sleep because your brain is going a million miles a minute? When we’re overwhelmed with anything from to-do lists to big life decisions, it’s hard for our brains to shut off and relax. Writing helps. You can make task lists for the next day to help put your mind at ease so you won’t forget anything. Or, you can get your thoughts and feelings out on paper so that they’re not living so much in your head. Replace screen time with journal time and you’re guaranteed to see a noticeable difference in the time it takes your mind to quiet and enter a sleepy state.
4. Fights Depression
It is widely accepted that writing in a journal has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression. Specific to seniors, this habit can support coming to terms with aging and subsequent lifestyle changes. It can promote mindfulness and help older adults to live in the present moment rather than worrying about what the future holds. Furthermore, journaling can help process complex emotions and difficult medical situations one may be facing.
5. Creates Peace of Mind
Some older adults treat journalling as if they are writing a memoir. They might craft letters to their children or grandchildren as part of the legacy they want to leave behind. They may also see their journals as something special to leave to their descendants. It can give older adults an enormous sense of peace to know that they’ve communicated their wishes, hopes, proudest moments, best advice, life lessons, etc. with the people they love and care about the most. It is truly a gift to pass something like this onto future generations.
6. Helps With Rehab
Seniors who are in the process of recovering from a serious injury or illness can benefit from journaling about their rehabilitation. Writing down what helps, what they’re finding difficult, how they’re feeling, and what symptoms they’re experiencing can help inform health practitioners and caregivers involved in their therapy. In turn, this can lead to a quicker recovery and better health outcomes.