These days it’s hard to put down our phones between catching up with loved ones and scrolling through photos. Rather than having to put a hard stop to our screen time altogether, it turns out that we can use it in a unique and fun way to boost our brain health. New research suggests that learning a new language via smartphone apps can have cognitive benefits for older adults.
A recent study published in Aging Neuropsychology and Cognition looked at the positive effects picking up a second language has on brain health. This study included 76 adults ages 65 to 75. One set of participants was assigned to learning Spanish for 30 minutes each day for 16 weeks through a language learning app known as Duolingo. Another group was asked to spend the same amount of time using a brain training app called BrainHQ. Researchers also assigned participants to a control group to properly measure the results.
The study’s authors found that those in the language learning group had similar cognitive improvements as those in the brain training group. They added these two groups experienced better working memory and executive function, which encompasses the ability to stay focused and avoid distractions. A key difference that researchers noticed was that the brain training group had a quicker time processing information than the language learning group by the end of the study. They credited this to brain training app’s time limit for certain tasks, which basically forces a person to memorize the information as quickly as they can.
Participants also considered Duolingo to be more enjoyable than the brain training app. This led the researchers to conclude that learning a second language through a smart phone app like Duolingo can be beneficial for brain health by sharpening memory and focus. Plus, it might enhance your quality of life.
“Besides the cognitive benefits, learning a second language may enrich older adults’ lives in other important ways — for instance, by leading to new friendships or opening the door to a new culture or travel, helping them live life to the fullest,” lead study author, Jed Meltzer, PhD, said in a statement.
Duolingo is available to download on iOS and Android and offers a wide range of languages to start learning including French, Greek, and Japanese. Whether you’re at home or at your favorite coffee shop, dedicating 30 minutes of your daily screen time to learning a new language can go a long way to protecting your memory as you age!