As kids, we were proud of our stamp collections, drawing, paintings or music skills that we would put it on display every time someone comes to our homes. Apart from studies and school almost most of us were enrolled in some hobby class which would mostly be our mother’s choice! Singing, chess, drawing, dance or some sport were the major picks for a hobby class a decade back. Though the trend continues until now we do have newer ones such as skating, abacus, foreign languages and more to put us in a whirlwind of confusion ultimately. What started as a hobby for some becomes their primary profession too later in life! It is during these times that we thank our parents who were once branded as being dictators torturing us and taking away our independence! More than being a pastime and an art form do you know that engaging in a hobby daily helps in the long term in postponing/reducing the risk of dementia? Its not only arts and crafts but even a movie with friends, concerts, travel, book clubs, surfing the net, playing games and even online shopping that helps but at a closer look it is seen that arts-related hobbies ensure maximum benefits!
Our schools focus on core subjects but also make one or two languages compulsory apart from the medium of communication based on the board of the school. Regional languages are compulsory second languages in most schools while the third language becomes one of our choice. But once out of school language disappears from our curriculum as we are stuck up with our core subjects! Still, arts degrees offer a second language even during college years. Also, there are some who are passionate about learning new languages and go to the extent of learning even three or four of them. Today, it’s become a fashion or even a passion to learn languages such as French, German or Russian as they provide excellent job opportunities within and outside the country. Besides these benefits, we have studies showing that learning a second language and being multilingual improves cognitive skills and delays the onset of dementia. The onset of certain types of dementia is delayed by as much as five years for bilingual people as they have a cognitive reserve that delays the onset. Language must be a part of the curriculum from the child’s fifth year until he/she completes college. Studies show that bilingual children who use their second language skills regularly are better at prioritizing tasks and multitasking compared to monolingual children (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2011/feb/18/bilingual-alzheimers-brain-power-multitasking). The executive control system is a critical area of the brain and though this deteriorates with ageing its been found that being bilingual keeps the person functioning better at every stage of life as it boosts brain performance. There is a constant stimulation in the brain which helps in building a cognitive reserve and this exists as a major reason for delaying onset of dementia.
Earlier, parents were always suggested to speak in one language to their kids as this would minimize confusion and allow them to master the language before moving on to another one. Even doctors suggested the same while nurturing small kids. It was believed that learning multiple languages confuses the brain and they face difficulties mastering either completely. But now we have found that multilingualism is not only better for improved brain performance but also stalls dementia onset. Bilinguals outperform monolinguals in selective attention, multitasking, processing new instructions and following them and performing concept-formation tasks. But they do also take time to retrieve words from memory. If you ponder, the world has got a greater number of bilinguals than monolinguals which shows that most of us are at a decreased risk of dementia. While we know that the risk is low, we still can’t answer the question of ‘why’.
Being socially active or outspoken too helps in lowering the risk of dementia-while this has been insisted upon, we do not have definite results supporting it. But those who spend time speaking to others and lead active social lives are healthier than those staying locked up inside the house. So, we don’t know whether being socially active prevents dementia or those who don’t have dementia are more socially active.
Embrace brain-stimulating activities and hobbies to delay/prevent dementia risks. We do have artists, multilinguals and actors who are down with dementia despite study results showing such benefits. But the trick here is that engaging in such activities does invoke pleasure in your mind, keeps you busy and helps you stay happy. Who knows, maybe these people have better quality of life with dementia compared to rest or are struck by this illness only during later years of life.
earning a language is never going to be a waste-learn it!
Doing pottery or craft is never going to decay-do it!
Being socially active is never going to spoil your mood-be active!
Students Should Learn Second Language to Prevent Dementia in Later Life: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/12156709/Students-should-learn-second-language-to-prevent-dementia-in-later-life.html
Can Learning a Foreign Language Prevent Dementia: https://time.com/5629779/learning-language-dementia/
Which Hobbies Help an Ageing Brain? https://www.cbsnews.com/news/which-hobbies-help-an-aging-brain/
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.