A recent study of 648 older adults in India suggests that those who were bilingual developed dementia more than four years later, on average, than those who spoke only one language—regardless of educational level.

Published recently in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), the study found that speaking two languages seems to have a protective effect against three types of dementia: Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia.

“Speaking more than one language is thought to lead to better development of the areas of the brain that handle executive functions and attention tasks, which may help protect from the onset of dementia,” said study author Suvarna Alladi, DM, with Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad, India, in a press release from the AAN.

The study subjects, all of whom were diagnosed with dementia, had an average age of 66. Approximately half spoke two or more languages; 14 percent were illiterate.

“These results offer strong evidence for the protective effect of bilingualism against dementia in a population very different from those studied so far in terms of its ethnicity, culture and patterns of language use,” Alladi said.

To learn more or to read the full article online, visit the Neurology Web site.
A remarkable transformation is taking place in nursing homes around the country as elderly patients are reconnecting with life through music. The brainchild of social worker Dan Cohen, a program called Music & Memory has created personalized iPod playlists for residents of elder care facilities, many of whom have Alzheimer's type dementia. The results have been truly life changing for patients as they are “reawakened” by the music of their youth.

Cohen is now working with renowned neuropsychologist Oliver Sacks (author of Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain) on a documentary about Cohen’s program and the elderly patients who are responding so positively. In a clip from this documentary, a man reacts to hearing music from his past:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyZQf0p73QM

 

“Our approach is simple, elegant and effective,” says Cohen on his Music & Memory Web site. “We train elder care professionals how to set up personalized music playlists, delivered on iPods and other digital devices, for those in their care. These musical favorites tap deep memories not lost to dementia and can bring residents and clients back to life, enabling them to feel like themselves again, to converse, socialize and stay present.”

What do you think? Has music helped your clients with dementia to access memories and engage more positively in daily life? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!