Thursday, December 25, 2008

Delaying Dementia with Bilingual Ability

Can you speak more than one language? If you can, you may have a better chance at delaying the onset of dementia symptoms. Dementia refers to a group of conditions that gradually destroy brain cells and lead to mental decline. Many conditions can cause dementia, but Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause. Most people who have the disease are over sixty-five, with eighty being the average age of diagnosis.

Toronto researchers say that fluency in two or more languages may be able to stave off cognitive decline because of the mental agility required to juggle them in day-to-day life. Principal investigator Ellen Bialystok, an associate scientist at the Rotman Research Institute of the Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care, states, "How you learn the language probably doesn't make much difference; how good your grammar is probably doesn't matter. What matters is that you have to manage two complete language systems at once."

Among the unilingual people studied, dementia began to appear in men at an average age of 70.8 and in women at 71.9. Among those who knew two or more languages, dementia did not begin to appear in men until an average age of 76.1 and in women until 75.1.

You can read more about this research in this “Toronto Globe and Mail” news article.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
"Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”
“Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog”

1 comment:

  1. Maybe there's hope for me after all!