The way people read changes as they age and helps explain why seniors have trouble reading fine print, a new study says.
Researchers at the University of Leicester in England measured eye movements in young adults (ages 18 to 30) and seniors (65 and older) as they read lines of text that were digitally manipulated in different ways. For example, sometimes the text was blurred and sometimes the features of individual letters were sharply defined.
Young adults found it easier to read the lines of text when fine visual detail was present, but seniors found it easier to read more blurred text, according to the study, recently published in the journal Psychology and Aging.
These results support the theory that older adults use a different reading strategy than younger adults and that they rely more on general cues, such as word shape, to discern the identities of words, the researchers said.
They added that their findings could lead to new ways to combat reading problems in seniors.
“The findings showed that the difficulty older readers often experience is likely to be related to a progressive decline in visual sensitivity, particularly for visual detail, due to optical changes and changes in neural transmission even in individuals with apparently normal vision,” study author Kevin Paterson said in a university news release.
“However, the findings also showed that older readers comprehended text just as accurately as younger readers,” he added. “Consequently, although normal aging clearly leads to important changes in reading behavior, it seems that adaptive responses to the changing nature of the visual input may help older adults to read and understand text efficiently well into later life.”