Social Enterprise Scotland Award winners Lingo Flamingo share their mission and success.

“Guarda!”…’Look!’ says my son, days before his first birthday. I immediately squeal with delight. After his first word (dog) was in English, his second being in Italian marks a big success for our Italian-Scottish household.

But while the benefits of bilingual learning for children are well established, until recently the benefits for older adults have been less well known.

However, all that is changing. For the past 3 years, I’ve been privileged to be Vice Chair of Lingo Flamingo, a social enterprise providing tailored language lessons to older adults and people living with dementia.

Each year Lingo supports over 500 people living with dementia in care homes across Scotland. It subsidises this work through providing fun and engaging language lessons for adults of any age, both online and face to face in its Language Nest in Shawlands, Glasgow.

Lingo’s work has found there are three key benefits to language learning for older adults:

Firstly, research shows that language learning is a very good cognitive workout for the brain and can build up cognitive reserve

Secondly, participants say the classes have increased their sense of worth and confidence.

Finally, participants express a sense of achievement and accomplishment through achieving an accredited SQA qualification from their course

This month, Lingo won the Health and Social Care Award at the Social Enterprise Scotland Awards 2022, recognising the vital impact of this unique work. As we celebrated at the Scottish Parliament, it felt particularly poignant to win this year.

It comes on the back of a tough period for older adults and people living with dementia, in particular those living in care homes. Covid-19 brought opportunities to socialise and engage with the outside world to a standstill, with devastating effects on the mental health, cognition and well-being of those living there.

It also contributed to the marginalisation of older people and people living with dementia, further reducing their visibility and agency to play an active role in society.

But as we look forward, we can see light on the horizon. Doors are reopening and Lingo is returning to many of the care homes it could not visit for so long. Lingo’s new status as an SQA approved centre is providing opportunities for learners to gain qualifications, for some their first qualification ever!

So in this challenging time, let’s take this moment to celebrate the hidden achievements of people living with dementia in care homes. They are happening all the time, we just need to look.

Alongside, our work in care homes, Lingo Flamingo offer community language classes both online and from our nest in Shawlands. The surplus revenue from these community classes cross-subsidise our work with older adults, including those living with dementia in care homes, community groups and day centres across Scotland. Therefore, if you’d like to support Lingo’s mission and share the gift of language this Christmas, please visit https://www.lingoflamingo.co.uk/our-story

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