It’s never too late to learn something new

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At Balhousie, we are always looking for alternative therapies to help alleviate the symptoms of those residents living with dementia and a recent study has highlighted the positive effects that learning a second language can have in delaying the symptoms of dementia by up to five years.

Dementia research

The study, undertaken by Edinburgh University and Nizam Institute of Medical Science in India, discovered that the effects of learning a second language in adults can slow down brain ageing as well as increase concentration. Not only that, but adults who are bi-lingual are said to have a deeper level of perception and enhanced communication skills later in life.

With 7.7 million new cases worldwide every year, this latest development could prove hugely significant in delaying the symptoms of the disease, as the number of people over the age of 65 is set to double in the next 17 years. It is likely, as people continue to live longer, that 1 in 3 people worldwide will die with a form of dementia. 

Our Wheatlands Care Home in Bonnybridge is the first of our care homes to begin a language course, run by newly formed social enterprise Lingo Flamingo. The tailored sessions are designed to help residents with early forms of dementia improve communication, cognitive development and inter-personal skills.

Language benefits for residents of care home

The innovative courses are not curriculum based and are not intended to make residents fluent in a foreign language, but are, instead, designed to engage their brains and enable them to enjoy the social interaction with other residents. Dementia can be a very isolating and frightening illness, so the classes offer a welcoming and inspiring environment for people living with the illness.

It is clear to see that the residents enjoy the classes and it’s wonderful to see the sense of achievement they get when they pick up a new phrase. A lot more comes from learning some new phrases and, as the brain is ‘awake and engaged’, talking about foreign countries often evokes fond memories of holidays and learning languages during their school days.

Over the weeks, staff at Wheatland’s have seen the resident’s confidence and willingness to get involved in the class develop and they enjoy telling other residents about the words they learned at the class. The workshops are very much activity-based and are designed to be a balance between enjoyment and stimulation. In the recent French workshops, there was tasting sessions where people smell and eat croissants to help awaken senses.

Residents at Wheatland’s began learning Spanish this week and enjoyed learning common greetings. Over the next 3 weeks’ the residents will undertake a range of activities ranging from music sessions, rhyme and reason and word association.

Maintaining an active mind and body

After the great success we’re hoping to begin classes in several of our other homes. We’ll leave you with the words of Wheatland’s resident, 94-year-old Betty who enjoyed her latest Spanish lesson so much she asked tutor Eva: “So when are we getting to learn the Spanish dancing!?”

If you’d like to find out more about the work we do at Balhousie Care Group, speak with a member of our team by calling 01738 254254 or find out more by visiting