At Lingo Flamingo we tackle dementia through language learning, but we didn't pull this idea from just anywhere. Rather, the wind beneath our pink wings is powered by some extraordinary research from the world's finest universities and institutes. In the article below we've rounded up the key facts and findings that have led us to create our unique language classes for older adults.
1. Those living with dementia is set to reach 1 million by 2025
There are currently over 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. This is set to rise sharply in the next decade, with 1 million individuals living with dementia by 2025, and a predicted 2 million by 2051. This rise should prompt us to reconsider how we, as a society, deal with the disease. Indeed, given the modest medical and pharmacological progress, we are going to have to change our whole approach to dementia, turning away from a "fix" and towards more compassionate, humanistic interventions that prioritise prevention and promote balance and quality of life. It is only in doing this that we will be able to emphasise the integrity, dignity and personhood individuals living with dementia.
2. Language learning can postpone dementia by up to five years.
When initial research into the effects of bilingualism was carried out in Indonesia, there was a lot of scepticism around the extraordinary finding that speaking a second language could postpone dementia. But study after study, review after review, from research spanning from Canada to the Isle of Skye to rural India, has found the same results: when compared to monologuists, those who can speak two languages tend to develop dementia 4 to 5 years later.
This is level of prevention is greater than any medication or therapy currently available. As such, many now call for language learning to be considered part of a healthy lifestyle, in much the same way as exercise or a balanced diet.
3. Speaking a second language means your twice as likely to recover from a stroke.
Those who speak two or more languages are twice as likely to have intact cognitive functions following a stroke. Adversely, it was more common for patients who could only speak one language to develop cognitive impairments.
4. The effects of language learning are almost immediate.
Research shows the health benefits of language learn are evident after just one week! In fact, regardless of your age, ability or prior knowledge, directed language learning can have immediately positive effects on your decision making and multi-tasking skills, and can heighten your ability to concentrate and communicate.
5. Language learning builds up 'cognitive reserve'.
Learning a language employs the ‘desirable difficulties’ of novelty, challenge and effort. That’s to say the constant juggling between distinct sounds, new words and unfamiliar concepts acts as an efficient brain work-out, building up higher levels of what is known as ‘cognitive reserve’.
6. Language learning = a unique brain work-out.
Unlike many other activities deemed good for the mind, language learning is holistic and cannot be reduced to any one mental task or cognitive function. Rather, the constant need to select, monitor, and suppress different sounds, words, concepts, and grammatical structures mean it’s a powerful and immersive work-out for your mind.