Whether you're a member of the greatest generation or a baby boomer, you should consider learning a new language. Why? Learning a new language can come with numerous benefits, including improved brain function, enhanced personal confidence and broadened opportunities for communication.
The prevalence of social media and the Internet in our society has caused our world to shrink and our knowledge base to expand. Want to talk to someone in China? Open Facebook. Want to learn a new language? Download a free app. It’s that simple.
Here are some reasons why seniors should consider learning a new language.
1. Sharpen your Decision-Making SkillsDo you ever feel like your children, grandchildren, or possibly just the millennial generation in general are in a constant state of multitasking and rapid-fire decision making? This can feel intimidating, but learning a new language can help you to train your brain to work at millennial-like speed.
A study conducted by psychologists from the University of Chicago indicated that when people speak in a language different from their native tongue, it eliminates the tendency toward loss aversion. Loss aversion is our human impulse to get caught up in the ‘here and now’ instead of making decisions that could become helpful in the future.
Even with full comprehension of different meaningful statements, people tend to react with less emotion when hearing it in their second language. So it’s possible that learning a second language could lead to benefits like better financial decisions with an enhanced ability to exercise self-control, retain focus and overall make good decisions.
2. Boost your Brain PowerWe tell children that eating fruits and vegetables will help them grow and increase brain power, but once you become an adult this is no longer the case. Seniors need to find new ways of learning to increase brain strength and agility.
University College London researchers in 2004 conducted a study in which they examined the brains of 105 people, 80 of whom were bilingual. The research showed that learning a foreign language altered the brain’s grey matter, or the part of. of the brain responsible for processing information. This suggests that people who are bilingual have an easier time understanding new information than those who are monolingual.
3. Transform the Way You TravelTravel experiences are greatly enhanced when you understand the native language of your destination.
You may not be dreaming of backpacking through Europe (or maybe you are), but that doesn’t mean you don’t still have a taste for adventure. Like Anthony Bourdain, you may want to travel and live like the locals. This becomes much easier when you can speak their language. By understanding the native tongue, you can more easily learn about the destination’s culture and people. You can interact more easily with the locals, and possibly build memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.
If you’re looking to test your linguistic skills but don’t want to stray from the comfort of home, senior living communities like Acts Retirement offer residents the opportunity to stay at one of their 22 communities in 8 states. Relocate to Florida for a week to test out your Spanish. Or stay in Pennsylvania and take a day trip to Philadelphia to visit Chinatown or take the train to New York and visit Little Italy!
4. Make Yourself More EmployableYou may be retired, or your spouse may think you should be retired, but that doesn’t always mean you’re ready to stop working. More and more seniors are making the choice to reenter or stay in the workforce longer. This brings up the question – how do I make myself a desirable candidate to potential employers, and how can I show my company I’m a valuable asset? Here’s another example of how learning another language can benefit you.
Companies are constantly expanding overseas and more languages are consistently being integrated into American culture. Therefore, if two job candidates have an almost identical skill set but one of them is bilingual, that person will be likelier to receive the job offer. Companies need people with the ability to communicate with people from other countries, and in many cases, they’re willing to pay for it.
5. Meet More PeopleSeniors who learn a new language open themselves up to different sections of the world, and connections in other parts of the world can be invaluable. Networking is such an important concept in today’s business world, and the ability to network with people from other parts of the globe can open up unique opportunities.
Besides developing business connections, learning a foreign language also opens the door to an entire world of potential new friendships. Research shows that socializing later in life is extremely beneficial for your physical and mental well-being. But if you can’t speak the same language, forming new bonds is a challenge, to say the least.
Emotions are tough to translate, and thoughts can be perceived differently in different languages. For example, the Spanish word for the pencil is la lapiz. The ‘la’ before lapiz indicates that the word takes on a feminine entity, which alters the emotion towards the word. Knowing these types of nuances can make all the difference when you’re trying to connect with a new pal.
6. Help Protect Against Alzheimer’s and DementiaLearning another language as an older adult has a great impact on the development and perseverance of the brain. Studies show that when children master a foreign language it aids in the development of the brain and allows then to perform better in school and on standardized tests.
Being bilingual has a muted effect on adults, but the effects rise to the forefront again in older age. Knowing another language can help protect against the type of cognitive decline that leads to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Learning another language has never been this readily available. You no longer need a physical school with a physical professor to get started. There are numerous online language instruction programs that allow you to learn the language of your choice in the comfort of your own home.
Rosetta Stone dominates the market for online language programs, but it can be pricey. There are a number of other programs available and each has its own teaching style.
Do you live in a senior living community or are considering moving into one? Today, many senior living communities provide opportunities for learning. At Acts Retirement, residents have the opportunity to take part in lifelong learning opportunities. The senior living company’s belief is that a happy life starts with maintaining a strong mind, and that requires daily exercise, challenges, stimulation and communication.
Take a page out of the Acts Retirement playbook and start strengthening your brain by learning a new language today! You’ll be amazed at what you can do, and the benefits you will experience, when you put your mind to it.
---- Acts Retirement-Life Communities is one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit continuing care retirement community organizations. Acts Retirement-Life Communities has 22 retirement communities in 8 states. The communities offer a range of apartments, villas and cottages that are a perfect fit for both your budget and your lifestyle. Acts Communities offer a variety of fitness activities and classes like art and book clubs.