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Even lifelong bookworms may read more slowly later in life

A woman in a yellow shirt with silver hair looks up from her book and smiles.

Jan. 8, 2019—Aging slows us down in surprising ways. Even avid readers, it turns out, retrieve words and read more slowly as the years go by. And that change may be more or less inevitable, according to a new study.

A closer look

Researchers divided adults into two groups, those 18 to 24 and those 59 to 81, and measured their average reading speed on a computer. Next, they tested participants' reading comprehension at two speeds: their average speed and one that was twice as fast.

The researchers suspected younger adults would read at the fastest speed that allowed understanding, while older adults would strategically read more slowly than was necessary. Consequently, they thought a forced increase in reading speed would decrease older adults' comprehension less than younger ones.

But that didn't pan out. Even at doubled reading speeds, comprehension dropped equally among younger and older adults. That suggests that older adults need to slow down to fully understand what they've read.

The good news? Reading slower is a natural part of aging. It's not a sign of cognitive problems. So embrace your natural reading speed. Forcing yourself to read faster will likely backfire and interfere with understanding.

The study appeared in Psychology and Aging. Check out the abstract to learn more.

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