Foreign language learning as a potential healthy aging tool to stimulate cognition and well-being in older adults: A randomized controlled study



Increasing age is the greatest known risk factor for dementia, a disorder manifesting as progressing cognitive impairment. However, measures can be taken later in life to stimulate cognitive functioning and well-being, thereby possibly delaying the onset of more severe cognitive impairment. Foreign language learning has been suggested to have potential in this respect, not only because language learning is an inherently social activity, but also because brain functions that tend to decline with aging largely overlap with those engaged by language learning. Language learning has also been hypothesized to be a unique cognitive stimulation activity, considering that regulating the activation of multiple languages in the brain constantly appeals to cognitive control.
This study investigated if a three-month language learning intervention, consisting of biweekly online classes and 45 minutes of self-study for five days a week, can serve as an innovative healthy aging tool to promote cognitive functioning and well-being in Dutch healthy older adults aged 65 or older (n = 15). To assess the unique contribution of language learning vis-à-vis other stimulating activities to cognition and well-being, participants were randomly assigned to an English course, a guitar course (active control condition, n = 13), or a lecture series (passive control condition, n = 15). Cognitive functioning and well-being were assessed at pre-intervention, post-intervention, and at a four-month follow-up using a neuropsychological battery and a reaction time task, and questionnaires, respectively.
At the time of submission, the data are being analyzed. Analysis of the data will reveal if language learning yields unique effects on cognitive functioning and/or well-being, compared to the other interventions. These results can inform us of whether late-life language learning could become a healthy aging tool to enhance well-being and to attenuate age-related cognitive decline, thereby perhaps delaying the onset of cognitive impairment or dementia.
Originele taal-2English
StatusPublished - jun.-2023
EvenementInternational Symposium on Bilingualism - Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
Duur: 26-jun.-202330-jun.-2023


ConferenceInternational Symposium on Bilingualism

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