Scottish social enterprise Lingo Flamingo gets grant to further research into the impact of language learning on dementia
University of Edinburgh will benefit from the grant and work alongside Lingo Flamingo, furthering research into how languages make a positive impact on patients’ well-being and their cognitive functions
Scottish social enterprise Lingo Flamingo has received an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Acceleration grant of £18,000 to contribute towards greater research into the cognitive impact of language learning for people living with dementia.
Lingo Flamingo is working in collaboration with The University of Edinburgh on the project, “Improving Later Life – Healthy Cognitive Ageing”, which aims to advance the groundwork on how language can affect the health and cognitive functions of patients.
Dr Thomas Bak, a researcher at The University of Edinburgh whose area of interest includes human cognitive neuroscience, said: “Our project is an extension of the current Lingo Flamingo language courses model in nursing homes, to patients still living at home and their carers. We aim to make a positive impact on the patients’ well-being and their cognitive functions. We also aim to make a positive impact on the carers’ experience by involving them in the development of a language-learning programme.”
ESRC provide funding for knowledge exchange activities through Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAAs), in order to accelerate the impact of research.
The social enterprise Lingo Flamingo provides tailored foreign language workshops for older adults, empowering them in the battle against dementia and brain ageing.
Research by the Lothian Birth Cohort Studies show that lifestyle decisions can influence healthy brain ageing and that being bilingual, on average, can postpone the effects of dementia up to five years later than monolinguists.
In addition, more extensive research shows that learning a language increases skills, such as decision making and multitasking, and heightens cognitive abilities.
Robbie Norval, founder of Lingo Flamingo, said: “The research behind this found [learning new languages] helps build up cognitive resilience from the brain so it makes the brain more resilient.
“We measure the cognitive data with The University of Edinburgh. So far, we’ve seen an increase in attention and perception skills, which is great.”
Lingo Flamingo provide their language workshops through care homes, day centres, and sheltered accommodation. He added: “We provide interactive and fun activities for older adults. We also do activities that challenge and stimulate the brain.
“It’s really helped others in terms of social impact. We measure the social impact by creating data from surveys about wellbeing, mental health, or how the adults are happier after the classes.”
Norval founded the enterprise based on his own experience of having a family member with dementia.
“I’m a linguist, and my gran suffered from dementia, so I wanted to do something which would help battle dementia and have a non-pharmaceutical option for empowering the brain,” he said. “I used to work in a care home and I saw a lack of activities, a lot of social deprivation and isolation. I wanted to do something to inspire older adults.
“It’s not always the most progressive sector. What we’re doing is quite innovative, so we try to make it as accessible as possible. We also incorporate opera, music, dance and games into our sessions, so its’ all about making language accessible,” he added.
The grant for Lingo Flamingo is much needed, as statistics show that older adults are now living longer, due to improved healthcare, government incentives, a rise in awareness, and advanced treatment.
Dementia overtook heart disease as the leading cause of death in England and Wales in 2016, while dementia statistics in Scotland follow closely behind those of their UK counterparts.
The Scottish Government predicts that the number of people diagnosed with dementia in Scotland will double by 2031.
Dr. Peter Connelly, consultant of old age psychiatry at Murray Royal Hospital in Perth, said: “Because people are living longer, there is more dementia around. There is a lot more people over the age of 80 than there was. So there are now far more people developing dementia as a result of longer life expectancies.”
To learn more visit: lingoflamingo.co.uk