Ageing with English as a Second Language

London is one of the most multicultural cities in the world with over 300 languages being spoken. Approximately one third of Londoners are born abroad and the city continues to attract over 200,000 immigrants a year. This substantial immigrant population provides significant labour and tax contributions, offering essential care, innovation, energy and cultural diversity to the city.

However, what happens when these people get older? What do we do when they start to forget their second language? Second-language attrition, a decline in second-language skills, commonly occurs when the second language is not used to a sufficient degree. This often happens later in life, due to a decline in physical mobility and contact with the outside world. Over half of the UK population who live alone are aged 75+. Loosing your second language can significantly contribute to loneliness and feelings of isolation, which may increase cognitive decline, risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia. Therefore, being able to communicate in your own language becomes increasingly important in later life. Physical mobility and completing everyday tasks may be challenging, requiring assistance from a carer. Speaking in a native language to sufficiently communicate needs to a carer is a lifeline, as well as establishing bonds and “cultures of comfort” to deal with loneliness and isolation.

Advances in health care have helped people live longer than ever before. It is predicted that the number of elderly people will increase substantially over the next 15 years. The NHS, currently struggling to find the resources to sufficiently support the needs of our ageing population, are having to rely on charities and private institutions to remedy these shortages. Caring services offered by companies, such as Guardian Carers, have stepped in with an inspired approach, providing bilingual support in “over 15 different languages and will provide you with carers who speak the language you love in the home you love.” Guardian Carers curates a tailored support system, delivered in the comforts of people’s homes and in the language that enables independence and a dignified life worth living.

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