Aging in two languages: Implications for public health

Ellen Bialystok, Jubin Abutalebi, Thomas Bak, Deborah M Burke, Judith Kroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With the population aging and a dramatic increase in the number of senior citizens, public health systems will be increasingly burdened with the need to deal with the care and treatment of individuals with dementia. We review evidence demonstrating how a particular experience, bilingualism, has been shown to protect cognitive function in older age and delay onset of symptoms of dementia. This paper describes behavioral and brain studies that have compared monolingual and bilingual older adults on measures of cognitive function or brain structure and reviews evidence demonstrating a protective effect of bilingualism against symptoms of dementia. We conclude by presenting some data showing the
potential savings in both human costs in terms of demented patients and economic considerations in terms of public money if symptoms of dementia could be postponed.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberARR-D-15-00137R1
Pages (from-to)56-60
Number of pages5
JournalAgeing Research Reviews
Early online date16 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • neuroplasticity
  • cognitive reserve
  • cognitive aging
  • bilingualism
  • dementia


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