Balhousie Wheatlands Care Home introduces foreign language workshops to help tackle dementia

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A Stirlingshire Care Home has introduced an innovative series of workshops designed to help residents fight the effects of dementia. Balhousie Wheatlands Care Home in Bonnybridge is helping tackle the disease, which sees 7.7 million new cases worldwide every year, by offering a range of foreign language workshops to their residents.

Cognitive development in elder years

Run by a newly formed social enterprise, Lingo Flamingo CIC, the tailored sessions help residents with early forms of dementia to improve communication, cognitive development and inter-personal skills, as well as build their confidence. It is believed that speaking multiple languages can delay the onset of dementia by up to five years.

Running for twelve weeks, the workshops have included German classes, where residents have discovered the German words that they already use with the English language. Residents have participated in music sessions, learned memory techniques, rhyme and reason, word association as well as an array of other activities.

Many of the instructors leading the workshops are either international students or refugees. This is part of Lingo Flamingo’s wider vision to facilitate more opportunities to bring together younger and older members of the community as well as bring together different cultures and backgrounds.

Bilingual slows down the symptoms of dementia

Establishing the business last year, Lingo Flamingo Founder, Robbie Norval has seen the impact foreign language workshops have had on those living with dementia. Robbie commented:

“I have worked in Care Homes in the past and have seen how isolating and lonely life can be for people living with dementia. Working with languages in other countries highlighted to me just how empowering language based workshops can be for those living with the disease, from helping to improve memory capacity, to offering a safe and inspiring place for people to enjoy themselves.

The workshops are not curriculum based, with a focus on enjoyment and building confidence through praise-based learning. Robbie added:

“When people first join a workshop, they can be a bit shy at first, but they soon get into the flow and rhythm of the classes. It’s a great thing to see. Our workshops are very much activity-based and are designed to be a balance between enjoyment and stimulation. For example, in our French workshops, we run tasting sessions where people smell and eat croissants to help awaken senses.”

Participation in the community

Grace Sloan, Home Manager at Balhousie Wheatlands Care Home, added:

“Lingo Flamingo’s foreign language workshops have proved very popular with many of our residents. It is fantastic to see how they respond to the activities and the enjoyment they get out of every session. Dementia can be a very isolating and frightening illness and we are delighted to be working with Lingo Flamingo to help residents use these inspiring techniques to help slow down the effects of the disease. This is an excellent way to help our residents to continue to participate in community initiatives.”