Hallmark Carehomes
Leaning new languages in a care setting – Henley Manor Care Home

18 May 2022

Leaning new languages in a care setting – Henley Manor Care Home

We recently caught up with Lifestyles Lead at Henley Manor Care Home, Louise Light. Louise shared with us her experience of implementing French singing lessons at the home and the positive effects it has had on residents.

A few months ago, we were engaged in a reminiscence session, which involves discussing memories of our past. Some residents said they speak French or used to live in France, which spurred me on to find a teacher in Henley that could do a zoom lesson with these residents. We did lots of singing in French, which was very welcome during the pandemic.

The French teacher, Clare, then began singing French with the residents every two weeks. This has become a very worthwhile activity for all the residents that are able to relate to their French memories. Even residents who do not speak French enjoy the session. In each session with Clare, the residents learn new songs and talk about the meanings of them. We learn all the pronunciations and when they are pronounced wrong, this encourages a lot of laughter. The residents really enjoy this time. I feel a sense of achievement. It helps with confidence building and we also have fun at the same time.

Once, due to the weather, our day of planned activities changed and we practiced our French singing and had a simple conversation in French. It was quite incredible to see how residents were so pleased they hadn’t forgotten their French speaking and were able to answer in French.

We should also consider the deeper meaning of taking part in this activity. It is believed that starting to learn a new language, or practicing an remembering a language you already know can help residents with early forms of dementia, improve communication, cognitive skills, development and interpersonal skills, as well as help to build confidence. Residents who become disengaged, after about 10 weeks can start to respond and experience enjoyment in this activity.

With 7.7 million people worldwide being diagnosed with dementia every year, some activities can prove vital to delaying the symptoms of dementia, therefore, improving their wellbeing. There are many positive effects of learning a second language, the main one being the delay of some symptoms of dementia for five years.

We must also realise it is never too later to learn. If anything, it become more important with age. The variety of tasks involved; distinguishing different sounds, learning new concepts, grammatical use and how to piece them together. It also increases wellbeing and encourages confidence. The social aspect is important in a care home as it can encourage residents to make new friends and aids a sense of belonging.

We have continued with our French lessons fortnightly, depending of other events, and the residents thoroughly look forward to this. The residents are given song sheets that are printed off beforehand. Quite a few residents ask to keep these so they can practice in their rooms.

It has been scientifically proven that if we study foreign languages, our brain has better cognitive performance. The neuronal connections and better and the size of the hippocampus, the part of our brain responsible for learning and memory, becomes bigger. This will aid memory and concentration. The positives are all there and the residents looks forward to singing in French – more importantly, they have fun as well.

To find out more about Henley Manor, click here.

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