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Seniors find reading easier on digital devices

February 8, 2013

Popular devices such as the Kindle and iPad have changed the way people read, and while some say they prefer physical books to their electronic versions, a new study found that seniors who use e-readers often have an easier time reading on screen than on paper. The findings may change the way some older adults feel about tablets, which have become a growing part of senior living.

The study, which was published in the journal PLOS ONE, was based off the analysis of neural effort being put toward processing information while reading. Researchers found that while both young and old participants expressed a desire to read paper books, they tended to perform better on brain tests while using electronic readers.

Older adults found it especially easy to read from tablets, the study found. Participants between the ages of 60 and 77 had lower brain activity and spent less time fixating on text while using digital readers compared to paper books, which indicates that they weren't struggling to process the information. Experts say the main cause for this could be the backlit displays and better text discrimination offered by such devices.

The results underscore the fact that seniors have become more likely to adopt the latest technology, a fact that a 2012 Pew Research study made even clearer. In addition to finding that the number of seniors using the internet stood at 50 percent, the survey also indicated that about 17 percent of people between 65 and 74 have a tablet like the iPad, while about 9 percent of the same age group uses e-readers. What's interesting about the findings is that the percentage of seniors using both devices is not much lower than younger generations, which are typically seen as more tech savvy.