Language Advantage

News & Insights

October 25, 2019

The Skill That Doesn’t Deteriorate with Age

One of the world’s most influential literature voices was lost on 5th August 2019 when Toni Morrison died. She published her first novel at 39 and her last one at 84. Before she died, she had published four novels, four children books, countless essays and other nonfictional works all after the age of 70.

This tells us one thing that age doesn’t diminish the capacity of a person to write, speak, and learn new vocabulary. The eyesight dims and memory falters but the ability to comprehend and produce language is preserved into older adulthood. Most people, especially writers fear the loss of language abilities as they grow older but research shows there is good news to report.

Mastering language is a lifelong voyage

Different aspects of our language abilities, like the knowledge of words and their meanings, improve from middle to late adulthood.

A study was done where it was discovered that seniors living in retirement homes near Chicago have an average vocabulary size of more than 21000 words while college students in the same area have only about 16000 words in their vocabulary.

Language abilities can sometimes function as a canal in the cognitive function. These can become a sign of mental impairment long before such an issue manifests.

Don’t put down the book

The ability to read and write is well preserved into older adulthood. Its advised that seniors or writers in their middle adulthood make the use of these abilities important as reading and writing prevents cognitive decline.

Seniors are encouraged to keep a journal which through research has been shown to reduce the risk of developing dementia substantially. This includes Alzheimer’s disease.

Reading fiction on the other hand is known to increase the lifespan of a person. Yale University School of Public Health did research which shows that people who read books 30 minutes each day live nearly two years longer than the nonreaders. The research suggests that the imaginative ability and effort to construct a fictional universe in the mind helps keep our cognitive wheels greased and in motion.

Language is a lifetime companion – no wonder it is interwoven into the health and longetivity of a person. Researchers keep making discoveries that connect language and aging. A good example is research published in July of 2019 showing that by studying a foreign language in older adulthood, it improves cognitive function.

Not everyone possesses the gifts of the likes of Toni Morrison but all of us stand to gain positively by frequently flexing out literary muscles.

Source: The Conversation