Why language learning?
Okay, we’ll admit it, if at first you find the idea of teaching older adults and those living with dementia a new language a little odd, you’re not alone, it’s a common reaction. So why do we do this? Well, the purpose is two-fold.
Firstly, language learning is unique in its ability to stimulate the mind and keep the brain young and healthy. In fact, research shows that those who can speak a second language tend to develop dementia 4 to 5 years later than those of us who can only speak one. Being bilingual also makes you far more likely to recover from a stroke. These astounding facts mean that speaking a second language has greater benefits than any treatments or pharmaceutical interventions currently offered for dementia. It’s for this reason that many are calling for language learning to be considered part of a healthy lifestyle in much the same way as exercise or a balanced diet.
Secondly, language learning is a fun way to bring people together to build confidence, experience something new, learn about a different culture, meet new people, create new connections, and have a laugh. For all the health benefits of language learning, we fundamentally still want participants to feel relaxed and to be having a good time. That’s why we like to say language learning is good for the brain and for the banter. When we get the learning environment right that’s when the benefits start to be seen: improved concentration, enhanced communication, heightened multi-tasking ability, and bolstered over-all well-being.