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December 13, 2012

Learning a Second Language: Benefits for Older Adults

When the Columbus Dispatch asked Limited Brands CEO Leslie Wexner if he was thinking about retirement when he stepped down as chairman of the Ohio State University Board of Trustees in September, he replied: 

“I think engagement – doing things – is an optimistic way of looking at life. It’s a youthful way of being. Physically, you can’'t escape your age. But mentally, you can have a youthful outlook.” 

A big factor in keeping yourself mentally young is to keep challenging yourself to do new things.

Tackling new challenges may stimulate your brain to create new neurological synapses. Even small changes such as brushing your teeth with the other hand or taking a new route to your favorite Kendal at Oberlin dining room or Kendal at Home events could be enough to jog your brain out of its normal routine and force it to work harder. A 2009 Johns Hopkins University study found that older people who tutored children in reading and math were able to delay and, in some cases, reverse brain aging. 

Learning a new language can be an excellent way to exercise your brain.

According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages website, learning a second language not only enhances a person’'s linguistic abilities, it also benefits “their cognitive and creative abilities.” 

In a Canadian study on Alzheimer’s disease reported on Fox News, researchers found that bilingual Alzheimer’s patients experienced symptoms five years later than single-language patients. “CT brain scans of the Alzheimer's patients showed that, among patients who are functioning at the same level, those who are bilingual have more advanced brain deterioration than those who spoke just one language. But this difference wasn't apparent from the patients' behaviors, or their abilities to function. The bilingual people acted like monolingual patients whose disease was less advanced.” 

If you want to exercise your brain by learning a new language, the extensive Cuyahoga County Library as well as the Oberlin Public Library offer resources for learning Spanish, French, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, German, Greek, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Russian and more. 

To learn more about your cognitive, mental and emotional health, download our free guide today

Photo credit: mkrigsman via photopin cc

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