Speaking Two or More Languages May Delay Dementia Symptoms

Edith is bilingual and speaks English and Spanish fluently. This has been helpful throughout her life, in her career, and in her travels. She was recently diagnosed with early onset dementia.What she didn’t know until now is that speaking two or more languages is helping delay the damage of the dementia, a new study suggests.

In a recent study in the journal Neurology, researchers found that people who were bilingual did not show the signs of three types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, for more than four years longer than those who spoke only one language.

For the study, 648 people who had been diagnosed with dementia participated. Of these patients, 391 spoke two or more languages. Of those studied, there were 240 people with Alzheimer’s disease, and the rest had other types of dementia. 14% of the participants were illiterate. The researchers found that those who spoke two languages developed the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia later than people who spoke only one language

The level of education of the participants in the study had no bearing on the results, as the later development of dementia was also found in people who could not read. There was also no added benefit in speaking more than two languages, the researchers pointed out.

“Bilingualism can be seen as a successful brain training, contributing to cognitive reserve, which can help delay dementia,” said study co-author Dr. Thomas Bak, a lecturer at the Center for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

According to Bak, “Cognitive reserve is the ability of the brain to keep functioning normally despite significant disease or injury. People with a greater cognitive reserve experience the onset of dementia later in life than people with less reserve. As a result, the impact of dementia will be less apparent for longer in people with greater reserve capacity, as thinking and memory functions are able to carry on even with the loss of brain cells.”

If you are already bilingual, this is exciting news. If you don’t speak another language, it is never too late to learn one. New ways of thinking, cultures, and experiences all become possible for second-language learners. Many retirees have the opportunity for travel, which is one of the best ways to enjoy second-language skills, and also to improve them. For more tips of learning another language, read the Forbes article, “How to Learn a Second Language”.

At the Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. (, we are excited to share how brain stimulating activities, such as learning a new language, can help stave off dementia. Our firm is dedicated to helping protect seniors and individuals with special needs by preserving dignity, quality of life, and financial security. If you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning, or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, call us at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment for a consultation.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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