FAB (Fitness, Ageing and Bilingualism) is a research project that investigates the benefits of regular physical activity and bilingualism for language and other cognitive abilities in healthy ageing.
In developed countries people are living longer lives but older age is often associated with a decrease in quality of life. Even if we age in a normal healthily manner, we can experience cognitive decline, such as slower mental functioning, reduced focus and impaired memory. Language can also be affected by age. As we get older, language can become slower and less fluent, and words can become harder to find.
Our project investigates two factors that might reduce cognitive decline in older adults: speaking a second language and regular exercise. Both have been shown to support some mental functions, but language function has received much less attention in ageing research. This is of particular importance for bilinguals who, across the life span, have shown better cognitive function compared to monolinguals but also have measurably slower and less fluent speech than monolinguals. Our research will compare the cognitive function of young and older English monolinguals and Norwegian-English bilinguals and relate it to key aspects of language use and language proficiency. We will also run a physical activity intervention with the older adults to determine the benefits associated with increased fitness for monolinguals and bilinguals and we will measure any changes in brain structure and function for monolinguals.
This project aims to identify the key protective components of being bilingual and being fit. This will allow us to optimize our use of regular physical activity and language learning to combat cognitive decline in old age.
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