Put the crossword aside and a learn a new language!

BalloonsWe’ve all heard that keeping your brain active is good prevention for dementia. There is conflicting research about this; some scientists feel that the benefit comes from learning new things, as opposed to processing information you previously learnt. If this is the case, doing the crossword won’t be as beneficial as learning to knit.

Learning a new language is a fantastic option for anyone trying to keep those neurons firing, as it combines novelty, challenge and effort for an effective brain workout.

In Scotland, Lingo Flamingo is a social enterprise with the goal of “Tackling Dementia Through Language”. Their workshops in French, Spanish, Italian and German help keep older adults’ brains fit and active. Social interaction combined with sensory language learning is a brilliant idea, especially as learning a language – at any age – can slow cognitive decline.

However, in addition to the theory of learning being a preventative measure, it seems that simply being bilingual acts as a form of cognitive reserve, delaying the onset of dementia.

Research from Canada published in the Neurology journal shows that bilingual patients with Alzheimer’s, one of forms of dementia, were diagnosed 4.3 years later and had reported the onset of symptoms 5.1 years later than the monolingual patients in the study. Recent research from the University of Edinburgh also supports this theory.

Let’s be proudly multilingual, and continue to learn new languages. Cebuano, anyone?