To become the most successful and accessible provider of interactive language learning experiences across the UK.
While working in a care home, director Robbie Norval witnessed the acute effects of loneliness and isolation. Drawing upon this experience and his language expertise, he fashioned a fresh approach to tackling dementia and the social isolation which can ensue as a result.
Lingo Flamingo now delivers professional-standard foreign language classes to older adults in care homes and day centres to increase well-being, stimulate the brain and slow the progress of dementia.
Classes incorporate an element of nostalgia to aid the process of language learning, making use of music, touch, scent, feel, and taste to make language learning fun and accessible for all.
They also facilitate community projects, reaching out to older people who live in their own homes and aren’t often afforded the opportunity to get out and socialise with peers.
These sorts of projects bring people who might normally be socially isolated into a fun, lively class atmosphere, providing a platform to build a social network.
“We teach foreign languages as a way of bringing older adults together…it increases their sense of belonging and sense of self worth.”
Initially developing pilot projects for local authorities with Big Lottery’s ‘Investing in Ideas’ funding, Lingo Flamingo also received grant funding to undertake work in deprived areas, especially in Glasgow.
Lingo Flamingo also adopts a ‘Robin Hood’ model, charging for classes in affluent areas of the city, which then allows them to provide community projects free of charge for people in underprivileged areas.
“We’ve worked hard at building our relationship with local authorities and the care sector, and word of mouth has been very important,” Robbie said.
“Providing free ‘try before you buy’ sessions has been valuable in showing individuals that it isn’t too difficult, and that they’re not too old to learn. It also helps by letting local authorities see that it is successful.”
Lingo Flamingo works with Edinburgh University to measure the cognitive impact of the language classes.
While the classes are tailored towards people living with dementia, Robbie observed: “Bringing people together in a class setting using praise-based learning increases self-confidence and self-worth. People are much more likely to make friendships within that class setting: it’s a new platform, a new way of making friends.”
“I’ve always been a big believer in the idea that success should be measured not just by how much money you can make, but also by your contribution to society. I love the model of social entrepreneurship, where the social impact is just as important as being a sustainable organisation. I think it’s a good mix of having a bit of business acumen and also making a contribution to society.”