Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online

Need a mental health boost?

Learn another language

If you have ever heard anyone say “oh, I am too old to learn another language” there is now scientific proof to show this is not the case.

Even better, new research shows that learning a new language in laterlife can actually boost brain power and even stave off the onset of dementia.

And you don’t even have to spend hours studying year after year to get the benefits…investigations undertaken at the University of Edinburgh show that after just a one week intensive course in a new language, your brain power can experience a dramatic boost.

Professor Antonella Sorace is the founder of the Bilingualism Matters Centre at the University and has completed research which shows that being multilingual can improve thinking and learning ability and also reduce mental decline with age.

But now her latest research has specifically involved people in their 60s and 70s who are complete beginners and involving them an intensive five day course in Gaelic on Scotland’s Isle of Skye.

The group first undertook a series of tests to show mental agility and sharpness. Then they all studied Gaelic for five hours each day of the course. At the end of the course, the group did better on tests of attention and mental sharpness.

Interestingly, this group’s mental abilities were also tested against a similar group who were studying other subjects rather than language. The results showed that the group studying Gaelic showed a more significant improvement in their cognitive function.

Professor Sorace said she believes the brain improvement comes from the effort and novelty of the tasks.

“It is not about proficiency as such, because after a week these people are not fluent in Gaelic,” she said. “

So these outcomes show just starting to learn a new language can bring benefits and there seems evidence that studying minority “novel” languages such as Gaelic, Sardinian or Cornish which are completely new to you can add even more benefit.

Continuing to study language can also be a great boost to your mental agility…research has shown that being bilingual, or at least having a reasonable understanding of a second language, can stave off the onset of dementia by up to five years. This is thought to be because the effort of compartmentalizing different languages and switching between them keeps the mind healthy for longer.

There are lots of online language courses now available at all levels; including courses in minority languages:

For Gaelic:

For Cornish:

For Welsh:

At our age, there are also lots of specialist opportunities to combine our love of travel with learning a new language.  IPSA, an American based organisation, offers one of the most extensive programmes for over 50s to study a huge range of different languages in different countries, from German in the Austrian Tyrol and Italian in Rome to Chinese in Shanghai and Russian in Moscow

Start discovering new languages now by emailing us what the following says:

HINT: it is in a minority European language!

Ez da berandu hizkuntza berri bat ikasteko

Back to LaterLife Interest Index

Bookmark This Share on Facebook Receive more like this


Latest Articles:

Health food of the month - Eggs

ostrich egg and chicken egg

Exotic eggs can also offer good nutrients
Duck eggs, quail eggs, Waitrose has even been known to sell ostrich eggs...but are they all the same, or are chicken eggs still the best choice?


AXA Health
Accept yourself

Couple smiling at each other

Our bodies go through many changes during our lives, but many of these changes are gradual, as a result of growing older. However, poor health can also alter the way we look and feel. Learning to live with and accept these differences can make the new us easier to adjust to.


Our sense of smell is not to be sniffed at

woman smelling tree blossom

Our smelling capability is based around two small odour detecting patches high up in the nasal passages. They are made up of around five or six million yellowish cells.


A spring in your step

field of daffodils

According to many areas of research, we do really feel happier when spring is on the way, even if the temperatures aren’t noticeably warmer.


Back to LaterLife Health Section

Visit our Pre-retirement Courses section here on laterlife or our dedicated Retirement Courses site


Advertise on

LaterLife Travel Insurance in Association with Avanti