5 Great Benefits of Learning a Second Language at an Older Age
Learning is a natural part of life, no matter how old we are. According to recent statistics, 17% of UK’s 55-64-year-olds and 5% of 65+-year-olds have taken up online courses and learning during 2020.
With the global pandemic still looming in our collective consciousness, learning a second language has become a worthwhile goal for many.
Learning a second language is beneficial not only due to expanded communication capacities but also from mental health and social aspects.
Let’s take a look at the advantages family members can enjoy by learning a new language and the options available to them in 2021.
Why Learning a Second Language at an Older Age is Beneficial
Let’s discuss the practical benefits of learning a second language at an older age. As we get older, we get tired, and our minds become slower and need more stimulation to serve us as before. That’s why learning a second language can be helpful not only in terms of mental health but also as a means for personal development during retirement.
Based on research done by Bria Communities, the benefits of learning for seniors extend to:
- Using retirement in a smart and productive way
- An emotional boost to one’s self-esteem
- Improved mental health and brain activity
- Chances to meet like-minded language learners
According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, it mitigates the onset of Alzheimer’s
Whether your relatives want to learn a language casually and sporadically or devote plenty of free time to learn, it’s a good idea to encourage their pursuit. They may enjoy livelier and more productive retirement years. At the same time, they can improve sociability and communication skills through learning a second language.
What do you Need to Get Started?
What exactly would a potential student need get started on learning a new language? Given that the COVID-19 and social distancing are still in effect, physically attending classes is not a reasonable idea. Instead, you can set them up with a smart digital device or a laptop to get started. A simple desktop computer with internet access is all your older parent will need to start learning.
Likewise, you can order language books for them to start with in addition to some online resources we’ll cover in just a moment. You are also likely to find used books in local stores throughout the UK, especially when it comes to languages such as French, German or Spanish. Paired with notepads, pencils, and markers, your parent will be more or less set up to learn a second language.
Health Concerns and Challenges to Consider
Given that seniors often have issues with sight, hearing, or cognitive abilities, what can you do to make the learning process more comfortable for them? The equipment they use for day-to-day activities can be used in language learning even though the process is taking place digitally.
Sight-impaired people will require assistance in setting up the zoom and font size settings on whichever website or resource they use. Even the platforms which offer text-to-voice functionality still need physical interaction from the learner to function properly.
Hearing-impaired individuals may have problems with the text-to-voice features present on many online platforms. However, with hearing aids and headphones set to a more sensitive/higher setting, this shouldn’t cause an issue.
We’ve touched on Alzheimer’s previously, and cognitive abilities do present a serious challenge for many older people, whether they want to admit it or not. It’s why learning a second language can be so helpful for them in the first place. Luckily, the online learning platforms of today are set up with gamification and step-by-step learning in mind. That means a new student can go through a very user-friendly and soft learning process. Of course, it also helps if a younger person such as a grandchild is available to interact with them during learning and assist them periodically.
Which Language Learning Options are Available?
Once things get back to “normal” somewhat, your parent could attend evening classes or enroll in a local language school to further improve their knowledge. But for now, even day centres for the elderly may not be a good idea, given the pandemic. It’s best to stick to online options for now, of which there are several choices.
Duolingo is a world-renown language learning platform that students can use on their phone, tablet, or desktop computer. The platform is very colourful and well-designed, allowing older users to easily navigate its interface and complete exercises at their own pace.
Duolingo features over 30 languages, and each features a dedicated discussion forum with which your parent can engage to chat with other learners. Duolingo is completely free to use but offers a premium option if you decide to commit to it long-term.
Lingo Flamingo is a Glasgow-based non-government organisation whose goal is to enable elderly people to learn a second language easily. Besides online courses, it also features visits to care homes and day centres, while taking students’ health into serious consideration.
If the elderly are suffering from dementia or other mental health conditions, Lingo Flamingo can also assist in enabling them to learn a language. Teachers at Lingo Flamingo are aware that older learners haven’t been in a classroom for a while and adequately adapt their approach. This is a great choice for all senior citizens who want to learn a second language and meet new people along the way.
As part of The Open University in Wales, Open Learn is an online platform dedicated to learning languages. The platform is curated by the university, meaning that its contents are of high quality and will allow older students to adapt to it quickly.
With a free account, learners can also track their progress and receive a symbolic statement of participation after completing each learning course. Open Learn also features multimedia content in the form of articles and videos dedicated to the process of learning, further expanding its functionality. Open Learn relies on the personal motivation and discipline of the learner. Also, it can provide the student with all the materials they could ever need.
It can be quite challenging for seniors to take up learning again, and it’s a great idea to encourage them to go through with it. Besides the obvious mental health benefits, learning a second language is simply a fun way to spend their free time.
You can get them started with a device with a sizable screen, a few books and notepads to work with, and direction to the above-mentioned platforms. Learning is a noble endeavour and can help anyone who takes it up at an older age – facilitate that for your elderly to reinvigorate them.
Author Donald Fomby is a professional writer, editor, and copywriter working with TrustMyPaper writing service. His expertise extends to digitally published articles, research papers, and case studies. He is a valued contributor to Supreme Dissertations, where he works on academic publications.
Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/elderly-man-and-woman-sitting-on-couch-using-laptop-computers-5698383/